maxcowan

Posts Tagged ‘problem gambling’

War! What is it good for? Part II

In General Mish-Mash on July 5, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Ok! Ok!  (See today’s Daily Telegraph: NRL Tackled on pokies profits.)

The combatants keep ramming home their positions on the mandatory pre-commitment for people who want to play poker machines. It’s a knock ’em down, drag ’em out battle where each side questions – nah! insults – the integrity and veracity of the other.

The passion is wonderful – well, it would be wonderful if it could be used constructively.

Mr Xenophon has laid down the defining gauntlet. His goal is the complete eradication of poker machines from our society. It’s his legitimate right to take that position and fight that fight. He is a smart man, though, and he must realise that prohibition is a dangerous road. Not dangerous for him but very dangerous for those he wants to protect – those affected by problem gamblers.

In saying that … in a way he has it right – eradication of gambling will cause the eradication of problem gamblers. The ultimate harm minimisation measure of those who operate under prohibition is – eradication. If you had a problem arising from gambling in Chicago in the 1920’s, your problem would be quickly and effectively attended.

The Harm Minimisation Team

So, does Mr Xenophon really want poker machines deleted from our society? Well, he probably does – he has adopted the role of the patron saint of the problem gambler and his belief is that the machines create the problem. It is a deeply held belief.

I think he has a genuine concern for those affected by problem gambling, yet every (recovering) problem gambler that I ever met (and it has been many) knows full well that the moment they focus on the machines (or bookmaker or casino or …) as the cause of the problem, their recovery is in jeopardy.

Andrew Wilkie, I dunno about him … and probably never will. He claims his stance is steeped in his personal integrity – after all, he is prepared to lose his job over it! But really, is he just taking a giant punt here? Is he really dedicated to problem gamblers or is he just using the issue as collateral for his play for some sort of power? Questions I can’t seem to answer.

Jenny Macklin? I wonder will she insist that the Labor Party take a stand and demands the immediate removal of gaming machines from the Labor, Workers, & Union clubs dotted around the State. A starting point and leadership position.

Now, what about the other side of the argument?

The other side is defending, even their attacks have a defensive ring. Venues and operators feel they are being attacked – and defence is the natural response.

But have they recognised that some of their own behaviours have been provocative.? These behaviours may well be forced upon them by economic imperatives … nevertheless it is what the public witnesses, it is what they have to interpret.

The public, in general, regard machine game operators with some level of cynicism and scepticism – not because they operate machine games. No! But because of the way they operate machine games – the way the machines have become the focal point of attention.

At the venue I worked in for many years, the over-riding philosophy was one of generosity, a generosity of offer, a generosity to community, a generosity towards those in trouble and in need of help, a generosity and respect toward individuals and the value of people.

If you could encapsulate its philosophy in a single sentence it would be – to provide a venue where people could be entertained in a myriad of ways, at low cost, often without cost.

The prime objective was to ensure people enjoyed themselves and received value, irrespective of whether they played the poker machines.

As operating costs became tighter and tighter, as regulations became more stringent and more costly, as taxes rose … something had to give. The generosity receded. Events, venues, & facilities that offered distractions at low cost were reduced or cut and, naturally, the profile and importance of machines loomed larger to both the operator and the customer.

The community’s respect and admiration for this local icon (and many other venues) plummeted. The people in the community believed that the primary focus had become machines. They came to believe that because that is the behaviour they saw.

As you focus, so you behave.

So, both sides of this battle are focused on the machines. And no-one is focused on those that are suffering. (Nick, no matter how much you postulate that machines are the problem, every problem gambler knows that the real problem lies within and the machine is just an instrument.)

So, my question to all the combatants, and all affected by the combat, is –

“What would happen if all the resources, attention, and intelligence that are being applied to this war were diverted to attend to those who suffer (and those who could be identified as having a propensity to suffer) from the cruel and invisible addiction?”

Stop your bickering and politicising, stop focusing on the machines, start focusing on the job of making our world a better place for more people, start broadening the offering and being more generous … and especially spare a thought or two or three or more for those people who need help but you are using as political footballs.