Ray Sparvell is the Founder and Director of a consulting firm, Contentis, and freelance reporter for major local media outlets. Last week, in a periodical column he calls “Ray’s Rant”, the topic of Sparvell’s tirade was the blatant lack of pokies in Perth. Like many residents of the area, Mr. Sparvell is of the opinion that poker machines should be addressed in legislation as a “freedom of choice” issue, not one of prohibition based on the fear of proliferating “social harm”.
A self-made businessman and graduate of Edith Cowan University, Ray Sparvell spends the majority of his time behind a desk, directing content strategies aimed at reigniting the “art of storytelling” within businesses. But on the evening of Saturday, May 27, he was indulging in a common Australian pastime that is largely denied to residents of Western Australia – playing the pokies.
You see, the only way to play the pokies in Perth is to visit the area’s sole casino, Crown Perth, in Burswood. Unlike so many other Australian states, WA has a prohibition on poker machines at local pubs, clubs and hotels.
Ray was quick to point out that, yes, electronic gaming machines (EGMs) are legal in certain areas, but they aren’t genuine poker machines. They “just happen to look, sound and pay out like regular pokies,” wrote Sparvell.
However, outside the realm of WA law, residents are able to play online pokies unabated. Anyone can log onto an international casino website from their desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device and spin the reels for real money anytime they like, and statistics have consistently shown that countless individuals are doing so.
“You can spin away in front of the telly or from the comfort of bed and gamble away your moolah to your heart’s content,” he wrote, calling the existence of online gambling a “mockery” of the laws prohibiting pokies in Perth (outside of the region’s one casino).
WA Revenue would Soar with Pokies in Perth
Like so many residents of WA, Mr. Sparvell fails to understand why pokie state governments throughout Australia are generating upwards of $3 billion every year by permitting pubs, clubs and hotels to obtain a license to offer poker machines to their patrons, but WA is not.
“Given that WA has some 10 per cent of the Australian population, that means we could be generating an extra $300 million a year in taxes,” said Sparvell.
“The government would benefit from those. The hospitality industry – pubs and clubs etc – would experience massive revenue increases that would generate jobs,” he explained. “Suppliers would reap the same rewards. Communities would benefit from RSLs and social clubs that would grow in strength and be able to offer subsidised food and drink as they do in the other states.”
WA says Pokies in Perth breed Problem Gamblers
Ray says the government’s argument is that pokies in Perth would burgeon social harm, and that problem gambling would flourish throughout the region. But he sees the situation a bit differently, wherein “the government – that’s happily acted like a one-armed bandit with us for years – is the chief proselytiser, banging from the pulpits that those spinning reels are the devil’s own handiwork, all the while enjoying the tax “ker-ching!” from those legions of “electronic gaming machines” across the Causeway.”
If roughly 1% of all Australian adults can be classified as ‘problem gamblers’ (including all vices, not just pokies), Sparvell says WA has surely hit that mark already “through exposure to scratchies, lotto, horse and dog racing, online betting, the brick and mortar casino and online casinos.”
Instead of hiding behind laws that prohibit most pokies in Perth, pretending they’ve saved the community from problem gambling, Ray believes legalizing “pokies in pubs and clubs would just add one more revenue stream onto a vice that already kicks big bucks into the state coffers,” as opposed to the current regime that is merely “fatten[ing] the wallets of overseas casino businesses”.