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MPs target gambling industry with Pokie-leaks campaign

THE political campaign against the gambling field is ramping up, with a trio of MP’s vowing to use Parliamentary privilege to leak industry secrets.

And they want your help to do it.

Anti-gambling MP’s Nick Xenophon, Andrew Wilkie and Larissa Waters have called on Australians to come forward with information about poker machine designs, payments to other politicians and industry tactics.

The move, dubbed ‘Pokie-leaks’, has the support of the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

And NXT Party leader Xenophon says the leaks have already began, revealing his Adelaide office had already been sent a USB stick that featured information about the inner workings of a poker machine.

He said the information on the stick could potentially reveal the inner workings of the machines and whether there were programming features that fuelled addiction.

“This information needs to be out there in the court of public opinion,” Senator Xenophon said.

“That’s where Pokie-Leaks comes in.

“If you know something that needs to be revealed, tell us, and with parliamentary privilege, we can tell everyone.”

Senator Waters said any whistle blower would be protected, given that the information will be revealed in the Senate and under Parliamentary privilege.

“We want to help the public realise that they’re being conned by poker machines,” she said.

“The industry has a history of making big donations to the major political parties, and they’ve got a history of suing politicians who get in their way, so I’m under no illusions that this will be a walk in the park.”

She believes the major political parties have been corrupted by donations from the gambling industry.

“Avoiding this kind of scrutiny is exactly why the gambling lobby donated hundreds of thousands to the old parties in the Federal Election,” she said.

“Until we get big money out of politics in Australia, the old parties will continue to serve their paymasters in the gambling lobby, and Australians will keep getting ripped off.”

State and territory government reaped some $5.8 billion in taxes from the gambling industry last year and Xenophon says that is why there is very little will for change.

“The hoteliers and clubs are powerful lobbyists and the number one jackpot junkies are state governments,” Xenophon said.

“The Federal Government could wean them (the states) off their dependency but it doesn’t look like that will happen.”

He said politicians were “terrified” of the industry.

Former pokie addict Shonica Guy has become one of the faces of the campaign, her addiction spanning some 14 years.

She has launched court action, with the help of crusading law firm Maurice Blackburn and former Federal Court judge Ron Merkel QC, against Crown Casino and Aristocrat, which makes the poker machines, for “misleading and deceptive conduct” under Australian consumer law.

“If I knew back then about how the machines really work, I never would have become addicted because I never would have touched one of those machines,” Guy said last week.

“People out there know the kind of information the industry wants to keep from the public.

“Pokie-Leaks gives them a chance to share that information safely and privately.

“That way they can protect other Australians who shouldn’t go anywhere near these machines.”

Wilkie said Pokie-leaks was needed to help keep tabs on an industry that was “fundamentally exploitative and very careful to try and keep its methods secret”.

“Pokie-Leaks will establish a valuable mechanism for industry insiders and members of the public to tell us what they know,” Wilkie said.

Our say

Australians lost over $1200 per person on gambling last financial year, with poker machines accounting for some $11.6 billion of that, which was a rise of nearly five per cent on the previous year.

These are not numbers to be sneered at and there is no doubt within that there are people who are addicted and cannot keep tabs on their spending.

But, by the same token, the majority of gamblers do it the right way.

But, in regards to things like pokies, do they really have secrets?

We know that they use pretty lights and sounds to rope you in.

We know that they produce random outcomes.

But we also know that the house always wins, with the return on the machines governed to be between 85 per cent and 92 per cent.

We know that the bookies use clever advertising campaigns to encourage betting.

All of these things are known to punters and, at the end of the day, no one is forcing them to place a bet or stick their money down a poker machine.

What we don’t know is if there is genuine corruption occurring in the industry, involving government figures.

If there is corruption going on between industry players and the Federal Government, then it must be revealed and action must be taken.

The ABC revealed last year that former Federal Labor Minister Peter Garrett claimed he had been offered “hundreds, if not thousands of dollars” by a peak gambling body in New South Wales

“I wasn’t going to accept money from them or from anyone in that way,” Garrett said at the time.

He later changed his claim, saying that it was a cheque made out to his electoral office, “But it was a very early taste of the way in which this sector could actually operate.”

If there is more of this going on, then bring on Pokie-leaks.

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