In Australia, gambling has been a way of life for many decades. The nation is home to 20% of the world’s poker machines. Statistical research has shown that about 80% of all Australians enjoy punting every year, either with regular wagers, or just once or twice on special occasions. With that said, the chances of Australia ever being pokies free are incredibly slim.
Those facts haven’t stopped siblings Anna and Tom Lawrence from launching a new campaign that aims to do just that. It’s called Proudly Pokies Free, and it’s mission is to encourage pubs, clubs and hotels all across Australia to operate without poker machines.
The Lawrence’s have launched their campaign via official websites in Australia and New Zealand, as well as social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. They’ve even taken to raising awareness and monetary donations throughout Sydney via GoGetFunding, successfully generating 44% of their $35k goal.
The initiative obviously has some support, but realistically speaking, turning Australia into a pokies free nation will never work. Here’s a list of the most prominent reasons why.
Government Reliant On Gambling Revenue
Topping the list is the state and federal government’s reliance on gambling revenue. According to the Australian Gaming Council, poker machines in local venues (not including casinos) contributed more than $3 billion to tax coffers in the 2013-14 fiscal year. That figure accounted for more than half of the nation’s overall gambling taxation (racing, sports betting, lotteries, etc.)
Transitioning to a pokies free country would be devastating to the government’s budget. Senator Nick Xenophon may be on board with the plan, but when he asks why other officials don’t agree? There’s your answer.
Australians Love Poker Machines
Not everyone will concur with this, but the majority of Australians love to play the pokies. We work hard, and believe its our right to spend the money we earn on this traditional form of entertainment. For many of us, a cold brew and a crack on the pokies at our favorite pub is just what the doctor ordered.
Youth Athletics Wouldn’t Exist Without Them
Australian clubs do a lot of good for their respective communities. One of their primary goals is to provide athletic departments that encourage sports among today’s youth. Without these programs, many of today’s under-privileged children would be left with no positive, motivational, teamwork-building activities to partake in.
These programs are pivotal to the development of our next generation. Young members of society without a steady, positive reinforcement often end up on the streets, leading them down a negative path.
The importance of organizations like Clubs Australia is without question. But it takes a lot of funding to support such programs, especially when it comes to purchasing sports equipment and sponsoring youth leagues.
Where do clubs get the vast majority of those funds? They get them from the poker machines that line their walls. If those games were to disappear, there’s no way the government would make up for the deficit – a government that would have it’s own shortcomings to deal with in a pokies free environment.
Don’t Ban Pokies, Make Them Safer
Is there a gambling addiction problem in the country? Yes. Should legislators work to institute laws that will reduce the potential harm from poker machines for players who can’t control their spending? Yes. Will public opinion ever sway towards a pokies free nation? Not a chance.
So to supporters of Proudly Pokies Free, while I commend your passion and devotion to ending gambling addiction in Australia and New Zealand, I honestly believe your approach is flawed beyond reconciliation.
A more productive approach would be to encourage lawmakers to decrease the bet size per play and maximum losses per hour. Revenue may decline marginally, but our entire population would benefit, including those who rely on poker machines for entertainment or essential funding.