The Coalition last week released its Policy Discussion Paper on Gambling Reform, rejecting the government’s mandatory pre-commitment scheme on poker machines as a measure to reduce problem gambling.
Topping the list of feeble alternatives is – wait for it – a national voluntary pre-commitment program.
Other suggestions include a training model for gambling industry employees to identify problem gamblers, similar to the Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate and a “self-exclusion” program, where problem gamblers could restrict their access to gambling venues.
In true Sir Humphrey style, the Coalition has also set up a Working Group to consider community and gambling industry responses to policy options. The group will report back to the Opposition leader at the end of February 2012.
It’s hard not to be cynical about the Coalition’s simple poker-machine strategy, which goes something like this: signal your opposition to mandatory pre-commitment; don’t put up a precise alternative, but call for a policy discussion; set up a committee; and finally, use the committee to ventilate the views of the gambling industry and other opponents of the Wilkie reforms.
The paper is full of thinly-disguised policy ventriloquism. As it did with the climate-denial rallies at Parliament House, the Coalition seems to be saying to the gambling industry, “speak through us”.
It outlines concerns that a mandatory pre-commitment scheme would damage revenue and it claims the closure of clubs would tear the social fabric of affected communities.