Politicians Hit Pokies Lobby Jackpot

Australia GamblingSlot machines, or pokies to Australians, are a big industry in the Land Down Under, and lobbyists are pushing back with major political donations against the looming threat of social outcry.

Pokies and ATMs

Pokies generate billions of dollars in profit in Australia each year. A big reason the machines are so lucrative is accessibility. Australian law allows pokies to be placed in hotel lobbies and similar venues. The pokies companies have used this flexibility to their advantage by placing them where patrons also have easy access to alcohol and automated teller machines.

The Loophole

Unable to ignore the public outcry any longer, the Australian government introduced legislation that made it illegal for a business to have a pokies machine and an ATM on the same premises. That law change would have made an immediate and significant dent in profitability. Would have but did not because the banks and gambling companies were ready with a teller machine that involved an actual person, such as a hotel host, and thus sat outside the legal definition of ATM.

The Outrage

When people became aware of the loophole, outrage ensued, and it was enough to draw citizens and politicians into the fight who had not shown must interest previously. In other words, the gambling companies, the banks and the host businesses had poked the proverbial hornet’s nest. In response to that, the pokies industry began to make major political contributions.

The Fallout

Andrew Wilkes, an anti-gambling campaigner, has referred to the political donations as corruption on an “industrial scale.” The obvious goal of the lobby is to put politicians in place that will protect their interests, but those interests are not necessarily in the best interest of Australian society. The new government has even put a plan in motion to overturn the recent ATM legislation, including ATM withdrawal limits and premises restrictions.