The Alliance for Gambling Reform is an Australian non-profit organization that—as the name implies—is lobbying heavily for new poker machine laws. Their ultimate goal is to have these addictive machines outlawed across the country, but they would probably settle for having the machines reprogrammed to be less addictive.
Thus far, their long-standing campaign has been unfruitful. Government’s rely entirely too much on the revenue generated by pokies in pubs and clubs to risk losing them. Well aware of that fact, the Alliance has turned to legal representation to get its point across.
Not too many law firms would want to spend the time or resources to take on a case of such magnitude; and realistically, one with such low odds of success. The extensive team of solicitors at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers may feel differently.
The Right Firm for the Job, If Accepted
Maurice Blackburn (1880-1944)
Founder of Maurice Blackburn Law Firm, 1919
The Melbourne-based law firm normally handles compensation and personal injury claims, taking on big businesses, insurance companies and other corporate industrialists. However, founded in 1919, this wouldn’t be the first time Maurice Blackburn has taken on such a profound case. After all, this is the same law firm that successfully fought for the 40-hour work week in 1947-48, as well as achieving equality in employment for women and equal pay for indigenous workers.
Taking on the pokies in Australia could be the most demanding task Maurice Blackburn has ever undertaken; if the firm takes the case. At present, Maurice Blackburn has not confirmed its intention to file.
The mission—should they choose to accept it—is to have the federal courts deem poker machines; something the Alliance for Gambling Reform views as “misleading and deceptive”, therefore illegal in Australia.
Maurice Blackburn’s Jacob Varghese told the ABC, “It’s illegal to do things which are misleading and deceptive. We think there’s a genuine argument that some of the behaviour by the pokie designers is misleading and deceptive in that it makes people think things are happening that are not actually happening.”
Courts may Succeed where Gov Can’t/Won’t
The Alliance and law firm are confident that they have a solid case. Breach of Australian legal standards based on Varghese’s statements is just one factor they believe will help their cause. Another important aspect of the case is the fact that the court system will decide the legality of poker machines, not the federal or state governments that are effectively profiting from them.
If and when the case does go to trial, Dr. Charles Livingstone will be a key witness for the Alliance. A senior lecturer at Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Dr. Livingstone has spoken out against the addictive nature of pokies for years now, lending his research to numerous cases and studies on the matter.
He called the pokies “as addictive as many narcotics drugs”, and fully supports the initiative to bring the issue to the court system. Dr. Livingstone said the courts won’t inherent the same conflict of interest arising from the gambling industry’s frequent support of political campaigns.
On the other end of the spectrum, according to government officials, the funds derived from pokies trusts are much more important. Officials have made it clear time and again that community projects and youth sports leagues would not be possible without taxing pokies revenue.
Should Maurice Blackburn prepare a case for the Alliance, it will be interesting to see which side of the fence garners the most support.