The previously orderly battle over slots regulations in Australia is descending into a melee.
At issue is a pre-commitment system for players of slot machines in clubs, pubs and hotels. The federal government wants the system to be mandatory for all. The industry wants usage to be left up to the individual.
Weighing in are anti-gaming forces, who want to combat what they see as an alarming rate of compulsive gambling, and state governments, which want to maintain control of gaming within their borders and the tax revenues to which they have become accustomed.
It’s all business as usual when it comes to any change in the status quo of gaming regulation. But the need to win is inciting increasing aggression from all involved.
Mandatory pre-commitment is the main issue for Andrew Wilkie, the independent MP from Tasmania who named that as the price for his crucial support of the government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. For the past month, Wilkie has claimed to be the target of death threats and blackmail attempts by the industry.
Clubs Australia President Anthony Ball, which is running a heavy media campaign against mandatory pre-commitment, feels Wilkie is blaming his organization for the alleged campaign.
“Obviously, he’s pointing the finger at Clubs Australia and the AHA,” Ball told Australia news media ABC. “We’re the ones who are running this campaign, but if he’s issued a death threat, he should go straight to the police and I’m happy to cooperate. I mean, that’s the way to deal with it, not to basically throw a rock at us.”
Meanwhile, the Australian club and pub industry is demanding an apology from Wilkie for suggesting that they are behind the rumors.
Wilkie is not buying the industry’s story because, he says, it is exactly what he would do if he were in their shoes.
“I would destroy Andrew Wilkie,” the former intelligence officer told the Sunday Age. “Because at the end of the day, the only thing standing between the industry and the A$5 billion they harvest from problem gamblers is me.”