Senator Xenophon called a media conference in Adelaide to criticise a print, television and radio campaign by clubs and hotels against a proposed mandatory poker machine pre-commitment scheme.
Clubs Australia claims the federal government’s plan is un-Australian and will cost jobs.
Senator Xenophon said the campaign’s ridiculous and includes lies by a desperate industry that’s totally against fundamental gambling reform.
Midway through the conference Ian Horne, the AHA general manager in South Australia, arrived and engaged the senator in a heated debate.
Mr Horne says Senator Xenophon wants there to be no poker machines anywhere in Australia and described the pre-commitment scheme as a multi-million-dollar “fishing trip”.
Senator Xenophon responded by saying the reforms are about developing a sensible system to reduce problem gambling.
$20 million marketing campaign against problem gambling
The federal government is facing a $20 million marketing campaign against its planned clampdown on problem gambling.
Clubs Australia claims the federal government’s plan, which includes a requirement for gamblers to carry cards to set gambling limits, is un-Australian and will cost jobs.
The group’s chief executive, Anthony Ball, says the cards are a licence to punt and won’t curb gambling addiction.
“It’s like saying to an alcoholic it’s OK to drink six beers – it’s just nonsense,” Mr Ball told ABC Radio ahead of the campaign launch.
Pokie campaign ‘based on lies’
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who has threatened to withdraw his support for the Gillard government if a mandatory system isn’t in place by 2014, accused the clubs of “telling lies”.
“The industry is being dishonest,” he told ABC Radio, adding it was side-stepping the 100,000 problem gamblers identified by the Productivity Commission.
The campaign’s claim that the proposed reforms were un-Australian was bizarre, Mr Wilkie said.
The clubs’ preferred voluntary system would have a very limited impact on problem gambling, he said.
Mr Wilkie said given the option, the vast majority of poker machine players would opt for “low intensity” machines that limit gambling losses to $50 an hour.
News Limited and Fairfax Media say Clubs Australia has rejected a government offer to increase ATM limits at licensed venues in exchange for pre-commitments on pokies.
Senator Xenophon says Clubs Australia should explain why $20 million of its revenue has been spent campaigning against pokie reforms.
“This greedy, self-interested lobby has really `jumped the shark’,” the independent senator said, noting the campaign’s cost exceeds the annual spend on problem gambling services.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee into Gambling Reform is due to report at the end of April.
Clubs protect revenue stream: Pyne
Opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne said the debate on pokies was about weighing the economic and social considerations of both sides.
“It is perfectly reasonable for the clubs to run a campaign protecting their revenue stream and that is what they are doing,” Mr Pyne told Sky News.
“It is also perfectly reasonable for Andrew Wilkie, who was elected on a platform for reforming pokies, to continue that battle.”
Mr Pyne said the Tasmanian independent had made some very good points about the need to rein spending on pokies.