Victorian Premier John Brumby may have played down predictions of a $1.5 billion government tax boon from new gaming giant Intralot’s aggressive push into the “scratchies” market but there is no doubt his government will reap massive cash rewards from the venture.
But how much is too much? When does the social cost outweigh the monetary gain?
Filling the government coffers to spend on services and infrastructure is one thing but tearing apart marriages and destroying families in the process must be weighed against it.
Most recent figures tell us that about 5 per cent of people who gamble have a serious problem. To anyone who gambles, those odds might sound good - only a one in 20 chance of developing an addiction. But there are stories of real people hidden in those figures - people with families who are drawn down into the mire of gambling addiction along side their partner, father, mother, brother or child. People like John*.
John had been gambling for 12 months. Small losses turned into bigger losses when he tried to turn his luck around. He hid his losses from his wife and two small children, but eventually the police turned up at the house after John stole money from his employer in a last desperate attempt to win his way out of trouble.
John and his wife argued in front of the children and finally his wife took the kids and left him.
There are about 60,000 stories just like that one across Victoria. Some end in jail, other even worse.
The Victorian Government is not going to ban all gaming, nor should it, as the vast majority of Victorians gamble within their limits. But it is undeniable that the government budgets on gaming revenue and knows that about half of all revenue is generated by problem gamblers (The Age, February 24, 2008).
To increase temptation and ease-of-gambling is to wave a sparkling nugget of fool’s gold in front people with a psychological addiction.
Intralot has government approval to expand the availability of “scratchies” and sell them in supermarkets, petrol stations, bottle shops and pharmacies. They will be in direct competition with Tatts and both companies will work overtime to attract punters and increase their market share.
To someone with a gambling problem it will feel as though they are being stalked.
The Victorian State Government has also allowed large concentrations of pokie machines to remain in low socio-economic areas such as the city of Latrobe - an area that rates highly in Tony Vinson’s list of “Postcodes of disadvantage” yet spends $240 per adult more on pokies every year than the state average. That’s $862 per adult per year on pokies alone. It is in these same areas that it appears the AFL also wants to expand gambling operations.
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