RICHARD WILLINGHAM June 12, 2012
Pokies venue staff would be required to approach problem gamblers and discuss how to overcome addiction under a plan to be spruiked to federal MPs from the clubs industry.
Clubs Australia, which represents more than 6000 registered not-for-profit clubs, will this week mail a policy paper, Part of the Solution, to all federal politicians. The paper calls for state governments to work with industry and researchers to develop an advanced responsible gambling training program to help staff identify addicts. ''This would involve staff approaching patrons displaying the signs of problematic gambling and starting a respectful conversation to enquire about the patrons' welfare and where necessary offering them assistance such as self-exclusions or referral to appropriate help services.'' Clubs Australia - which spearheaded the public campaign against the government's planned, but now dumped, mandatory precommitment scheme - also wants to improve self-exclusion programs so that punters can have themselves barred from multiple venues, as well as giving family members the power to initiate a third party intervention.
The paper says that ''consistent with a public health approach, the primary goal of this policy is to promote a culture of responsible gambling among all stakeholders, ensuring both healthy communities and a vibrant and sustainable gambling industry''.
The group wants any new policies to take into account the benefit the industry provides to the community - estimates vary between $3.7 billion and $11.1 billion - and that a detailed cost-benefit and risk analysis must be taken into account when assessing ideas.
It says prevalence rates and estimated social costs associated with problem gambling - $4.7 billion according to the Productivity Commission - are substantially lower than other public health issues such as obesity, smoking, mental illness, problem drinking and illicit drug use, meaning a more measured policy response is required.
Business compliance costs of any new rules need also to be taken into account, the paper says.
''Rather than measures that seek to prevent a minority of people from making bad choices by restricting consumer choice, the industry supports measures that empower our patrons to make informed choices, while offering target assistance to those unable to make rational choices.''