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Sludge Report #159 - Gambling & Junkets

In This Edition: Who's Going To France With Air New Zealand? - Linda Clark Gets Down And Dirty On The Irresponsible Gambling Act

NOTE: Authors of this report will be anonymous and wide ranging, and occasionally finely balanced. Indeed you are invited to contribute: The format is as a reporters notebook. It will be published as and when material is available. C.D. Sludge can be contacted at sludge@scoop.co.nz. The Sludge Report is available as a free email service..Click HERE - http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/myscoop/ to subscribe...

Sludge Report #159

Who's Going To France With Air New Zealand?

C.D. Sludge being an initiated member of the wonderfully compliant and craven New Zealand media is well aware that it is mighty hard for an underpaid reporter to pass up the opportunity of a free return ticket to France.

Moreover, Sludge is also well aware that schmoozing as a public relations tactic can be kind of effective, albeit in a rather slimy sort of way. It is inevitably much easier to understand the point of view of someone who is providing you with a dosing of Moet & Chandon and a nice fillet mignon.

Therefore Sludge wonders which media other than the Dompost and yea olde Granny Herald have given permission to Air New Zealand to fly reporters - who have been in recent weeks covering the Qantas/Air New Zealand standoff with the Commerce Commission - off to France to view the Airline's brand new Airbus aircraft?

Unless the airline alliance story is reassigned, these very same reporters will upon their return - from the vineyards of Toulouse – have to cover the Commerce Commission's findings on the hotly contested proposed Qantas/Air New Zealand alliance?

No doubt the timing of this junket is pure coincidence.

********

Linda Clark Gets Down And Dirty On The Irresponsible Gambling Act

Thanks to Radio New Zealand's Linda Clark's interview with United Future Leader Peter Dunne this morning it is now clear what happened with the brand new Irresponsible Gambling Act. It was as Sludge suspected, a dirty little deal done in the back rooms of the ninth floor and foisted at speed on an unsuspecting public.

For those who have not caught up on the news. The Irresponsible Gambling Bill became an Act last night.

And while the Progressive Coalition party is promising a Private Members Bill to redress the damage done by this law change, Sludge suspects anyone who tries to hold their breath for this to come to fruition will soon pass away. The original intention of this bill was to tame the ever growing menace we know as pokies.

The reality of the new law as passed is that it will almost certainly lead to growth in the menace.

The smoking gun in this political debacle was the issue of banknote acceptors in pokie parlours.

The Bill as reported back from select committee contained provisions to outlaw this technology – a technology which is in fact already in place in some locations – but which many people wanted to remove.

In his defence of banknote acceptors in pokie halls, Dunne - this morning on Radio New Zealand - said the issue had been debated in select committee.

And this much is true, it was debated. But, somewhat crucially, it was decided by the committee that bank note acceptors should be outlawed. Moreover in making this decision the committee concurred with the Department of Internal Affair's advice on the subject. And the DIA is not widely known as a gambling industry unfriendly source of policy advice.

In defending banknote acceptors Dunne told us that in his opinion problem gamblers are beyond any help. They are so organised, he said, that they would easily manage to arrange to have all the coin they needed on them in order to lose their shirt. But don't gamblers all think they are going to win?

Dunne argued that policy on this issue could not influence problem gambler behaviour. He also said, remarkably – and perhaps more honestly - that the change was useful in making cash handling easier for pokie parlour owners.

Yet as any gambler, or problem gambling counsellor can tell you, the point of decision when a gambler decides to break into yet another $20 bill, or to go home, is the critical point at which gambling becomes a problem. Making it easier for gamblers to spend their pay-packets and grocery funds in this way is inevitably going to make the pokie menace worse. This is not rocket science.

Meanwhile on the issue of Internet gambling Dunne told us 1) that we need the money for arts and culture, and 2) that people can gamble online already.

Again his arguments fly in the face of all reason. While it is true that there are online gambling casinos accessible on the Internet, as a regular internet user and recipient of spam from these dens of iniquity, I would not trust any of them.

All the online casinos I have seen have been flashy, foreign and gave off a distinct whiff of a conjob.

On the other hand, the Lotteries Commission, which spends millions on maintaining an image of harmless family friendly fun and fiscal integrity will attract an entirely new group of online gamblers to the medium. Peter Dunne told Linda he would like to see evidence of this. But again, says Sludge, this ain't rocket science.

To add insult to injury, the community funding argument that Dunne relies on to justify the State's move into Internet gambling is internally inconsistent with all the other changes to the Irresponsible Gambling Act that United Future facilitated.

The biggest threat to Lotto is pokies. Lotto says this is so. Repeatedly.

Therefore by making it easier for the pokies to fleece the discretionary gambling dollar off the unsuspecting punter United Future's amendments to this bill directly undermine Lotto's market, and its ability to provide community funding.

Peter Dunne's answers this morning were so inadequate that they beg many more questions.

C.D. Sludge now wants to know how precisely the Gambling "industry" lobbied United Future on this issue? Who met who and when?

Was the United Future party caucus privy to Dunne and Marc Alexander's negotiations on these issues?

Where was the liberally minded conservative Catholic Gordon Copeland in this debate? And where was parties' Christian grassroots?

And perhaps most importantly of all, what was the quid-pro-quo for United Future support of Gambling Industry objectives? (No doubt the answer to this will be none, it was just the strength of the argument – in which case see above, what argument?)

Finally - given how this issue will almost certainly play in the Christian lobby that backs United Future - did someone on the ninth floor intentionally let United Future (willingly) sup on this poisoned chalice?

**** ENDS ****

Anti©opyright Sludge 2003

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