In Australia, pokies are among the most popular forms of entertainment, right up there with sports, concerts and nightclubs. Statistics show that the vast majority of Aussies are gamblers, and most of them take a punt on the poker machines at least a few times a year.
The way we play pokies in Australia could soon change, though. Political factions and anti-gambling groups are calling for less poker machines, reduced betting limits and a reduction in max bets per spin. Amidst all the lobbying, however, it seems there’s another group that would like to see more pokies installed at racing clubs.
In fact, some believe that racing clubs should have the right to be transformed into gambling destinations, akin to Australia’s licenced casinos.
More Australia Pokies for Racing Clubs
Bernard Saundry, former CEO of Racing Victoria, wants to increase the number of poker machines at racing clubs to more than twice the current legal limit. At present, laws restrict racing clubs to hosting no more than 105 machines. Saundry is calling for that number to be increased to 250 once existing laws expire in 2022.
The former industry exec, who retied on January 1, 2017, argued that, all across Australia, pokies could help restore the consistently flagging revenue at clubs. He called poker machines a “legitimate and successful” source of revenue for the racing sector.
Saundry submitted his opinion to the Victorian Government during a gaming review in 2016, before announcing his retirement. He said all profits from the additional installments would go right back into racing.
Brodie Arnold, CEO of Melbourne Racing Club, took it one step further. He doesn’t just want to see more Australia pokies in clubs, he wants to turn those clubs into full-fledged gambling destinations, subject to the same regulatory provisions as the nation’s casino industry.
Arnold feels there is a direct link between the two gambling sectors. “An increase of machines would see a boost to employment in such venues, a majority of which exist in regional areas, and an increase in gaming tax for the government,” he argued.
Anti-Pokies Crusaders Disagree
As always, a number of proponents to the plan have voiced their antagonistic opinions. Countless submission were made to the Victorian Government during last year’s review process, and many were wholly opposed to any type of increase related to poker machines.
“Racing Victoria is as bad as the football clubs and big supermarket chains when it comes to the pokies,” said Greens MLC Colleen Hartland. “They need to stop exploiting people’s gambling addiction to boost their bottom line.”
The Australian Christian Lobby and other anti-gaming groups have called for pokies in Australia to legislate a max bet limit of $1 per play. Even Coles, a nationwide supermarket and hotel franchise with more than 3,000 poker machines installed throughout Australia, supported the call for $1 bet limits.
Although that issue has yet to be addressed in many areas, South Australia took the initiative to reduce the max bets on pokies by half, from $10 to $5 per play, effective January 1, 2017. While that move was seen as a positive by many, hard-core anti-gambling advocates maintain that it’s just not enough.
Holly Little, a spokeswoman for the Andrews Labor Government, gave no clear indication as to the ALG’s opinion on increasing pokies in Australia racing clubs, saying “club funding is a matter for Racing Victoria and its clubs.
“The Andrews Labor Government will continue to support Racing Victoria through the Victorian Racing Industry Fund to ensure the industry has a sustainable future,” stated Little.