At some stage soon parliament will resume debate on the Gambling Amendment Bill (No2). It’s a largely technical Bill that makes minor amendments so that the law will work as intended. One of the issues it covers is the distribution of pokie machine profits which, by law, have to be used for charitable purposes. However those profits don’t have to go back into the communities they were drawn from and quite a bit of pokie money goes into paying rental space for the machines, director’s fees for the ‘charities’ that distribute the funds, and other similar ‘expenses’.
During the Second Reading debate, the then Minister of Internal Affairs, Richard Worth, conceded that there were some questionable funding practices within the industry. He subsequently indicated in discussions with me that he thought those issues should be the subject of a separate piece of legislation. It’s an undertaking I hope the new Minister will honour.
In the meantime, Sue Bradford has tabled a number of amendments to the current Bill and while I think that some of them are wide of the Bill’s scope (it’s supposed to contain technical amendments, not significant policy changes) I think they’re worthy of debate. They include requirements for pokie machines to be located entirely indoors (not in courtyards where people can smoke, drink and gamble at the same time) and for the majority of the grants to be made back into the communities the money came from in the first place.
The amendments would also prohibit the use of pokie machine profits for racing stake money. I don’t have a problem with racing clubs receiving charitable grants. It would be unfair to stop racing clubs receiving any funding whilst still allowing other sports clubs to get it. However currently it is perfectly legal for a pokie machine operator to hand over their profits to the racing industry to use as prize money. In my view that is one form of gambling subsidising another and I can’t see how it can be justified.
I’d be interested in people’s views on pokie machines and how the profits should be distributed. Do we have too many pokie machines? Should the profits have to go back into the communities they are taken from? Should racing stake money be an authorised charitable purpose? Should we move to a more centralised system for grant distribution (eg. A model similar to lottery grants)? All reasonable and sensible argument and suggestions welcome.