Gambling is big business and Queensland’s gaming industry is booming. But the social impacts of gambling losses are a major concern to government. Chief reporter Peter Gleeson examines the delicate juggling act required of Treasurer Terry Mackenroth.
THE Queensland Government is having an each-way bet with the State’s club, hotel and casino industry.
Late last year it banned poker machines from accepting $50 and $100 notes to help stem the tide of problem gambling.
But the decision has had a negative impact on the gaming turnover of the State’s 1000 clubs, which employ 20,000 people.
Pubs and casinos also have felt the pinch, with some reports suggesting poker machine turnover has dropped as much as 40 per cent.
Significantly, the Beattie Government is treading warily on gaming reform.
It knows it must protect society from the demons of problem gambling and has made inroads in recent years, setting up helplines and counselling for people who bet beyond their means.
But it also knows the clubs, hotels and casinos are part of the fabric of the Queensland way of life.
They provide entertainment, facilities and a sense of community.
And the industry keeps many thousands of Queenslanders gainfully employed. For a government with a ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ pledge, it must ensure the industry survives and prospers.
Yet clubs, in particular, say their turnover has dropped markedly since the Beattie Government banned $50 and $100 notes from poker machines.
They say their viability has been eroded. It’s a difficult balancing act for any government.
To help clubs through these troubled times, the Beattie Government recently commissioned the first major analysis of the Queensland club industry since the introduction of gaming machines in 1992.
A survey of the clubs found: * Clubs with up to 120 gaming machines were most ‘at risk’ of a downturn; * No support services were currently available for the clubs to address this risk; * Clubs with less than 40 gaming machines, in particular, were under increasing threat from declining financial performance.
Treasurer Terry Mackenroth said management issues and competition from other clubs and the hotel sector, particularly with gaming, were the key factors affecting clubs in difficulty.
Addressing the 10th annual gaming and casino convention on the Gold Coast, Mr Mackenroth said yesterday the Government had introduced support packages for the club industry.
He said some clubs had embarked on redevelopment strategies which had exacerbated their debt burden.
The Southport RSL Club began a costly redevelopment program which ultimately led to administrators being appointed.
Mr Mackenroth said to help clubs assess the viability of redevelopment schemes, the Government would assist clubs with less than 120 gaming machines get proper business advice.
“These initiatives to assist the gaming industry are continually balanced against the community’s concern about the adverse impacts of gaming and the need for a more responsible approach to gambling,” he said.
Mr Mackenroth said a strategy was in place to maximise the social and economic benefits of gambling and minimise any potential harm to gamblers, their families and friends.
The Government wants poker machines fair, secure and auditable.
Mr Mackenroth said ensuring Online Casino Singapore were fair to players was a key element of player protection. “It does move the ballgame into politically more contentious areas,” he said.
“The goal of these measures is to assist the gambler who has problems, not ruin the entertainment for the vast majority who do not.”
Mr Mackenroth spoke of Jupiters Ltd’s acquisition of Centrebet and its growth into new overseas markets.
He said gaming growth had increased by 6 per cent in the past 12 months, through lotteries, gaming machines, keno, wagering and casinos. Almost half of Queensland’s gaming growth occurred in the poker machine sector.
This significant growth resulted in the number of gaming machines in Queensland hotels increasing by 2834 – up 21 per cent on last year.
Mr Mackenroth said some applications received for new hotel sites could only be described as ‘convenience gambling sites’. “They are small sites with a limited range of services, often in shopping centres,” he said.
“Our government has met this challenge, firstly by increasing the capacity of the gaming commission to take account of a wider range of community impacts and also placing a cap on gaming machines in hotels.
“It is important that providing gambling products in hotels is done in the context of providing a range of services that we have come to expect of hotels. It does not mean the development of bars or bistros with gaming as the focus and primary source of revenue.”
The 10th annual gaming and casinos convention at Palazzo Versace is looking at a range of issues confronting the nation’s gambling industry.
They include the future of the casino industry, online wagering and sports betting and the changing face of the TAB.