Australia’s national government is in the tricky place of having to appease one MP from Tasmania on slot machine policy in order to hold onto the reins of power.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard was able to form a minority government in September with the support of a handful of non-Labor MPs. Now Gillard, in an effort to hold onto the support of independent MP Andrew Wilkie of Tasmania, is looking at a federal law to mandate betting limits for slot players.
The state government of Victoria is objecting to any interference at the federal level with gaming regulations, which are generally managed by the individual state. Victoria’s gaming minister, Michael O’Brien, told the Sunday Age that the decision on whether or not to pre-commit to a loss limit when playing a slot machine should be left to the individual.
O’Brien called the plan “the type of Big Brother, nanny-state policy that many Australians will instinctively reject.”
But Federal Families Minister Jenny Macklin has said that the federal government would be going forward with the pre-commitment plan as part of a deal to lock in the support of Wilkie. She said the Gillard government would use the commonwealth tax powers to override the state and make the plan mandatory.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, such a move could end up costing the state governments more than A$500 million in tax revenue.
O’Brien told ABC, “The regulation of gambling, the treatment of problem gambling is far too important to be used as a political plaything by the commonwealth government in order to be able to shore up their numbers. It seems that the Gillard government is just very keen to pick and choose its issues in order to placate Mr. Wilkie, rather than actually looking at what are the policy measures that are best placed to try to seriously treat problem gambling.”