Australians have the world’s highest per capita spending on gambling, and while sports betting’s popularity is increasing, it’s the ubiquitous video poker machine (pokies) industry that claims the overwhelming bulk of the nation’s gambling dollars.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who has built most of his political career on ‘tough on gambling’ posturing, has just launched a new ‘Pokie-Leaks’ campaign that asks gambling insiders to come forward with incriminating information on the multi-billion-dollar pokies industry.
Xenophon, along with Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Greens Senator Larissa Walters, say they will use parliamentary privilege to protect the identity of any pokies whistleblowers who provide them with info on industry tactics – including illicit payments made to other politicians to impede anti-pokies legislation – as well as the nuts and bolts of poker machine design.
Xenophon claims the campaign is already bearing forbidden fruit in the form of a USB drive supposedly containing data on poker machine operation (although, if we were Xenophon, we’d insert that drive in someone else’s computer first, just to make sure it’s not one of those USB Killer things sent by a malevolent pokies CEO).
The crusading trio has the support of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, a mix of politicians, business leaders and academics who want to give the pokies a poke in the eye.
Similar tactics are being waged in the UK against fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG). The CFG was founded by gambling insider Derek Webb, who critics have noted began his anti-FOBT quest after discovering one running the Three Card Poker game he invented and “rather than sue I backed a campaign to make my point.”
Of course, turnabout is fair play, and the pokies industry is likely already sending out feelers to anyone who might have any naughty photographs, unclaimed revenue sources or proof of overdue library books taken out by Xenophon, Walters and Wilkie.