Australia Wrestles with Problem Gambling

Admin. - October 28, 2008

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd requests the Productivity Commission to investigate the issue of problem gambling.

Rudd as PM
Kevin Rudd, the incumbent Australian Prime Minister has requested a probe into gambling. Amidst concerns that several Australian states are relying too heavily on gambling as a revenue source, Rudd had the Productivity Commission do a little investigation into the matter.

Based on figures from 2005, the Australian National University's Centre for Gambling Research (NUCGR) discovered that around $4 billion in taxes were collected from gambling activity. These taxes make up around 12% of state revenue. Rudd made a promise to the Australian electorate to fight the gambling affliction and the inquiry is set to begin on November 24, 2008, with a final report scheduled for the end of 2009.

The chances
Despite opposition, gambling pundits retain significant support in parliament. Mr. Xenophon, a senator, has argued that the odds are significantly in favour of the gambling industry. This view is based on the assertion that gambling in fact creates thousands of jobs, both through the casino and hotel/tourism sector.

Online gambling has also come under the microscope. The federal government is conducting extensive research into the impact of gambling on related industries and its contribution to tax revenue. Among others, the commission will delve into the socio-economic aspects of gambling and the nation's ability to deal with problem gambling - this is in respect of social welfare services and NGOs available in that regard.

Regulation is key
The Australian government is looking to establish measures that would minimise harmful gambling activities for both state and territory governments. A report conducted nine years ago found that 2.1% of adults were problem gamblers - a figure expected to be significantly higher with the advent of online gambling.

Social costs
Rudd has made it clear that he is against poker machines because of their ability to wreck families' livelihoods. However he has allowed for open debate on the issue. Educational initiatives aimed at informing people of the inherent dangers of gambling addiction are taking place on a state-by-state basis. Of the states in Australia, New South Wales has the most machines at 105,500 with Queensland at 44,023 and Victoria at 30,000. The goal is responsible gambling, which is achieved through regulation, not prohibition.

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