Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Poker machine reform and the NRL

Program: Triple M

E & OE – Proof only

MATTY JOHNS: Yeah Pagie and Clubs were in the news today guys. A lot of controversy going around. They’ve been hit hard by legislation. Originally a number of years ago, there’s the smoking laws, now of course we’ve got the pokie tax, and now the Government wants to bring in a mandatory pre-commitment to poker machine use which many clubs are saying that the technology just to put this in place will force them to shut their doors. Now in the paper today, in the Telegraph, MG, the Panthers which was one of the real centrepieces of the community out there at Penrith are saying last year they’ve lost almost $12 million which, well, going by that, that puts the football club at risk.

MARK GEYER: Yeah, not only that Matty, grass roots where the Panthers has provided a lot to the Penrith Junior Rugby League, the Penrith Netball Association, all junior sports, soccer, over the last decade or two decades. And just for instance say if you’re got a kid at the moment who pays $150 a year for registration, expect that to double under this new mandate.

GUS WORLAND: Okay so what exactly are they, what do you mean when you say this technology Matty, what is that, does that exactly mean?

MATTY JOHNS: They want to put in place basically the technology at a Leagues Club where you walk up, okay, you’re about to have a hit on the poker machines Gus and you say, you have to, you type in what sort of money you’re willing to lose. Say it could be a 100 bucks and once that $100 is finished you cannot play it anymore. Which is, look okay, it’s good in theory, it’s good in theory. But people are saying it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work. They’ll just take their gambling addiction elsewhere and all it’s going to do is cripple the clubs.

MARK GEYER: You know what Matty, that’s all fine and dandy but exactly what you say, five to ten metres away is the TAB.

GUS WORLAND: Well that’s right…

MARK GEYER: Where are you going to unload on that?

MATTY JOHNS: At the end of the day you’ve got gambling online .

MARK GEYER: That’s exactly right.

GUS WORLAND: Okay boys well let’s speak to the people who’re trying to get this across the line. On the line right now we’ve got Jenny Macklin. She’s the Minister for Families and Community Services and Jenny thanks for joining us. How does this poker tax work?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well first and foremost it’s not a tax.


JENNY MACKLIN: When you sit down to play the pokies, I’d say at the moment anyone who sits down doesn’t think ‘tonight I’m going to lose thousands of dollars. What they want to do is set a limit themselves and stick to it. And that’s exactly what this pre-commitment technology is about. It’s about people themselves saying tonight, I want to spend a $100 on the pokies but I don’t want to get all caught up in the hype. I want to make sure that’s all I stick to so I’ve still got money to spend on the family budget and this is just a way to help them stick to it.

MATTY JOHNS: Peter Doust who is involved with the St George Illawarra Football Club has said just putting the technology in place for this new poker machine pre-commitment is going to send his club broke. I mean what do you say to that because there’s a lot of clubs saying it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well it’s just not the case when you look at the facts. I know people are saying it but the truth is a lot of clubs have already put this pre-commitment technology onto their machines and they’re saying to people they can use it if they choose to. Our technical advice is that it will cost around $2,000 a machine, and just to give you a comparison, every single machine brings in an average of $60,000 a year to the club. So I don’t think putting $2,000 on to a machine to make sure that we can have pre-commitment technology is going to send anybody broke.

MATTY JOHNS: Jenny a lot of people are saying well what’s to stop a problem gambler going to a casino, going to a TAB, betting online, going to the track, all those sort of things to feed their desire to have a punt?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think that is a really important point and it’s why we are also working at the same time on online gambling because we know that more and more people are turning to online gambling and we’ve got a big inquiry underway about that. But I also say it is important to do what we can. We know that pre-commitment helps problem gamblers. It helps them set their own limits and really in the end that’s what this is about.

MARK GEYER: Jenny, I live in the western suburbs of Sydney, in Penrith in particular, I don’t know one single person who is addicted to poker machines yet I know a lot who are addicted to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Why not a pre-commitment to that?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as you know we’re doing a lot on the cigarette front and trying to cut down the level of smoking and problem drinking. We know that people like to have a drink, like to play the pokies, and there’s nothing wrong with that if people don’t have a problem. But if they’re losing huge amounts of money and then can’t go home and pay the mortgage or pay for taking the kids to the footy. That’s what this is about. We’ve got from the work that we’ve done with the Productivity Commission, around 160,000 problem gamblers in Australia. And when you add their families to this problem, you’ve got so many people who are really badly affected, people losing their homes because someone in their family has gambled away the family mortgage.

MATTY JOHNS: Well there’s a story in the paper today in Sydney regarding the Panthers Club that last year they lost almost $12 million and there’s talk that the club, the Panthers Club will bring the football club down. Will you guys look to subsidise sporting clubs? A lot, I mean the clubs Jenny are saying at the moment that this is basically a bridge too far. When this happens it’s basic, and it’s going to be lights out.

JENNY MACKLIN: I know they say that. That’s why it’s good to come on and go through some of the facts…


JENNY MACKLIN: Because as I mentioned to you before, if we only talking about $2,000 a machine to put this pre-commitment technology on, that’s certainly not going to send anybody broke. I think the other thing is to remember that if clubs aren’t depending on problem gambling, if they’ve already dealt with the problem gamblers in their area, then it won’t affect them.

GUS WORLAND: Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families and Community Services. Thanks for spending some time on the Grill Team and I think this is going to bubble away so if we can get hold of you at another time we’d appreciate it as well.

JENNY MACKLIN: No problem. Good on you guys.