The news that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has finally woken up to the anomaly that is the Australian in-play gambling laws was met with mixed emotions in the Champion Profits office this morning. On one hand we were elated that finally Australia may be about to be put on a level playing field with the rest of the world; even New Zealand can bet in-play online, and the huge disadvantage Aussie punters face may finally be removed.
The opposite side was that it has taken so long to be realised and understood and also how long it may take to implement. It will certainly face opposition from the anti-gambling brigade that will vociferously claim it will create more problem gamblers. This is completely false.
The people that are pumping millions through poker machines will spend at least a part of their time at home now placing a few bets on the footy and being able to do it won’t mean they will bet more; it will mean they will bet smarter.
Let me deal with the problem gambling first in one paragraph. If the government is serious about helping problem gambling, then they need to abolish the insipid poker machines.
They are fixed against you at about 85% so every hundred you bet, you will be returned $85 so the longer you play, the more you lose. You simply cannot win.
If they are serious about improving health, they need to ban cigarettes as they cause more deaths than anyone can imagine. Far more than heroin and cocaine which are both illegal. Hundreds of thousands more in fact, but they will ban neither because of the huge taxes they bring in. A healthy happy society is not good for the government bottom line.
Back to this law and what it means for Australia. Minister Stephen Conroy is exactly right that these laws are an anomaly and we have been banging on about it for years. The key question is this. What is the difference between being able to telephone Sportsbet, the TAB, or Betfair and place a bet during the State or Origin or any other live event and being able to place the exact same bet with the click of a mouse? Answer = ZERO.
The rest of the world can do it so why can’t we? The answer to that is simple as well. Sport does not even have its own portfolio in the government.
The real problem is the administrators that run racing in NSW, and the Minister for Arts, Sport and Recreation Kate Lundy have no clue about gambling. Not a clue. Look at Ms Lundy’s background.
Born in Sydney, Lundy dropped out of Year 11 without telling her parents and went to work on a construction site. She became the trade union representative and began her career in the Building Workers Industrial Union (BWIU). Following the 2007 federal election, Lundy was dropped from the front bench and was replaced as Minister for Sport and Minister for Youth by Kate Ellis.
On 11 September 2010, she was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Citizenship as well as Prime Minister and Cabinet as part of a minority Gillard Labor government reshuffle of ministers. She joined the Gillard ministry in a reshuffle in March 2012, where she received the Minister for Sport portfolio following the retirement of Senator Mark Arbib, and was also made Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
So sport does not even occupy a lot of her time, she just got chucked into it. Knowledge of gambling or experience of it? Basically zero, I believe. We have seen from the recent Betfair court case that racing NSW officials have no understanding or interest of the situation for punters and they will learn that lesson down the line when turnover drops dramatically as the Betfair decision to ban some traders takes effect.
At last the communications minister has seen the light (or had it shone in his eyes) and appears to be willing to address the issue.
Now all we need is someone from our side of the fence (but hopefully Betfair will do it) to get in his office and really explain, what a difference this would make to Australian players.
It puts us on a level playing field, it will increase turnover slightly but not a lot as we all still bet, we just do it by telephone. It will not create any more problem gamblers and in fact it may even reduce the number as they won’t have to throw their money in a machine with which they have no hope of ever winning.
We took a long time to get here, but now it is on the agenda, we need to make more noise than those opposed to it.
Let’s hope by Christmas, we can bet with our mouse during a game.
By Tony Hargraves of Champion Profits