Such irony. Two multi-millionaires, Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court, move to ditch Souths Leagues Club’s 160 poker machines because they don’t think the social cost of the pokies is “appropriate” – most poker machine players are on social security, 30 to 50 per cent of pokies profits come gambling addicts.
The open line response to Rusty’s initiative has been overwhelmingly in favour. Even most Terror readers are applauding. People who don’t even like rugby league are promising to join the Rabbitohs.”“Peter Holmes a Court for premier, Russell Crowe for PM” suggested one listener.
Meanwhile the NSW Pubs, Clubs and Property Developers’ government, nominally Labor, nominally champion of the weak and disadvantaged, quietly slips its hotel backers millions of dollars in extra gambling revenue by allowing them to run Keno as well pokies. Unlike Crowe and Holmes a Court, Morris Iemma apparently has no qualms about sucking money out of addicts and pensioners when it suits the revenue addictions of both his government and his Sussex Street party masters.
Anti-pokies campaigner Tim Costello conceded on ABC Sydney radio that Keno was relatively “soft” gambling, but wished the government had sought some sort of a trade off in reducing the number of pokies or the spin rate. Nah – that wouldn’t be the NSW way.
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On AM, Holmes a Court explained he and his partner were focussing on the net benefit to the Redfern region.
“Our sponsors are telling us the more we do in the community, the more they want to support the football club. Our members are saying the more we do in the community the more they want to be involved in the club. It doesn’t have to be a financial loss, it can be financially viable and have a social benefit.”
He posed an analogy that a state government with a conscience might find uncomfortable:
“If we wanted to make more money we could sell drugs, it’s very lucrative, but it has a terrible social cost.”
Wonder if Sussex Street has considered that option. Given the reliance on addicts for such a high proportion of poker machine profits, it would seem a logical extension of existing practice.
But the pokie industry would not take such competition for government favour without a fight. The manufacturers and designers continue to work on improving the addictiveness of their product, subtly encouraging mugs to feed the machines longer and more richly. Such work is called “research and development” and yields valuable intellectual property.
And Morris Iemma stands happily behind them, pockets wide open for his cut.