Clubs Australia has recommended in its submission to the Productivity Commission that more attention should be focused on the "ills of Internet gambling" now that problem gambling on the pokies has decreased, reports the Canberra Times.
The Commission is studying problem gambling in its examination of Australian gambling trends and areas of concern, and the Club move is being viewed by some observers as an attempt to head off possible demands for further pokie restrictions by anti-gambling politicians such as Senator Nick Xenophon. The Productivity Commission is expected to report back to government in November 2009.
The Clubs Australia argument is that the New South Wales G-line, (for problem gamblers), received 6 595 calls last year, compared with 11 774 in 2004, providing anecdotal evidence that the demand on counselling services is declining.
Average monthly spending on gambling is $300 a person on the Internet, compared with $59.82 on non-internet gambling, the movement claims, criticising calls to ban automatic teller machines in clubs, as Victoria will do by 2012, and arguing that 25 percent of the country's ATMs are in pubs and clubs, and that $9 billion is withdrawn from them each year.
"People who gamble are not deluded," the Clubs Australia submission reads. "They choose to do so in knowledge of their basic odds and are content to 'budget' a 'spend' amount."
Turning on Internet gambling, the submission goes on to claim that there has been much misinformation about the dangers of pokie machines when Internet gambling and mobile phone gambling are growth industries.
"For example, Australia does not have 21 percent of the world's gaming machines [as has been reported] but only 2.5 per cent; state and territory governments are not addicted to gambling revenue and the majority of gaming machine revenue is not derived from problem gamblers," the submission asserts.
NSW was ranked 12th in the world in online gambling jurisdictions, the submission says.
"Internet gambling fosters people staying at home gambling on their credit card in a totally unregulated environment, away from any watchful eye, and is in our view the most significant area for the future growth of problem gambling," the submission argues. "Australians are now able to gamble on over 1 800 websites or wherever they can take a 3G mobile telephone," it says.
"There is evidence that the incidence of gambling abuse in Australian land-based gaming venues has declined since the release of the 1999 report.
"The simple truth is that the vast majority of gamblers enjoy gambling as a form of entertainment, like any other. As with any form of consumption or pastime - food, alcohol, even shopping or exercise - there is, of course, such a thing as 'too much', but there is nothing inherently wrong with gambling as an activity or with the people who participate in it.
"This view of gambling is prevalent among anti-gambling campaigners driven by religious conviction and the firmly held belief that gambling is sinful."
The acting chief executive of Clubs Australia, Anthony Ball, said: "The election of Nick Xenophon to the Senate created a platform for an array of exaggerated claims and half truths about problem gambling to be aired in the media."