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Monday, March 8, 2010

Gambling News and Findings From Australia Get Mixed Reviews, by Greg Tingle - 9th March 2010

It's been a painstaking process, but Gambling911 via the Media Man down under in Aussie Land, has got their hands on some interesting data of substance, released by our "friends" at the New South Wales government no less!

The good news is that a recent survey by the NSW government has demonstrated that rate of problem gambling in the state is declining and that it now has fewer "problem gamblers" per head of population than the southerly friends in Victoria. Yeah, The State Of Origin is on... go The Blues.

Not to any great surprises, the scientific (whaling term ala Japanese whaling) findings have been greeted with furious scepticism by an academic expert and by anti-pokies campaigner Senator Nick Xenophon, who has named the survey a ''snow job'' from a government dependent on gambling revenue. If there was one man in Australia that possibly hated the pokes more than Kevin "Bloody" Rudd, that would be Nicky X, coming out of the blue corner.

The gambling and gaming survey, which was included in the New South Wales Population Health Survey at the request of Gaming and Racing Minister Kevin Greene, found that only 0.4 per cent of the state's adult population are "problem gamblers", down from the last survey in 2006 that found the rate to be 0.8 per cent. It concluded 2.5 per cent were low-risk gamblers and 1.2 per cent were moderate-risk gamblers.

The results of the telephone based survey also found that Victoria had a "problem gambling" rate of 0.7 per cent, while South Australia and the "banana benders" in Queensland were on a par with NSW.

Minister Greene advised that the findings showed measures introduced by the NSW government to help problem gamblers were making a positive impact. Its Responsible Gambling Fund, taken from a levy on casino profits, has poured money into front-line and telephone counselling services. Measures introduced last year included further capping machine numbers and banning credit card cash withdrawals from ATMs in gaming venues.

''These findings are very encouraging and we hope it's a sign that our high-quality counselling service and strict harm minimisation laws are making a real difference,'' Mr Greene said.

However Senator Xenophon as can be expected queried how a telephone survey could accurately gauge the level of problem gambling in the community, arguing many "problem gamblers" were either in denial or already had had their landlines disconnected!

''This survey shows just how desperate the NSW Government is to cover up the extent of problem gambling, he said.

''The NSW government is hopelessly compromised when it rakes in well over $1 billion in poker machine taxes a year.''

Monash University senior lecturer in Health Social Sciences Dr Charles Livingstone, a board member of the journal International Gambling Studies, agreed that telephone surveys of problem gambling tended to contain a "selection bias". His interpretation of gambling data collected in NSW in the past decade showed a problem gambling rate about 2.5 per cent in the adult population, which had remained largely unchanged. ''Gambling continues to be very much out of control in New South Wales'' Dr Livingstone said.

The survey also interestingly contradicts the findings of a draft Productivity Commission report released last October, which found that measures introduced by state governments to limit problem gambling in the past decade had been largely ineffective.

Media Man can advise from from first hand accounts that its basically impossible to enter a venue such as a pub, hotel or casino in Australia without seeing a number of extremely visible warnings and alerts as to the potential dangers of problem gambling. Be it Bondi Icebergs Bergs Gaming, Bondi Hotel's Stardust Rooms, or the good ol Crown Casino, they all carry substantial signage. One of the signs even read something to the effect of "Generally your chances of winning a substantial prize are less than one in a million".

Trusted and highly ethical casinos such as PartyGaming's PartyCasino and Virgin Games Virgin Casino also carry quality information about harm prevention and minimization, the odds of winning, and who to contact if you think you may have a gambling problem. One in million hey...Aw well, you got to be in it to win it.

The Productivity Commission has just handed its final report on gambling to the federal government and is receiving mixed reports.

Gambling policy, health and internet censorship remain of great interest to voters for state and federal elections, and yes, you can bet on election outcomes at agencies such as Centrebet International, who are now also taking bets on the financial markets, following the lead from PartyGaming with their InterTrader deal with London Capital Group last January.

Media Man and Gambling911 remind the readership and punters to know your limits and keep it fun, be it at a land based gambling den or at any number of online casinos.

*The writer is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company http://www.mediamanint.com

*The writer owns shares in Crown Casino and is a pro active member of Richard Branson's Virgin Unite

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