Despite claims that poker machines benefit the community, these claims do not bear any relationship to the real impact of gambling on local communities. Poker machines have caused considerable harm to communities and the claims for community benefits are arguably a smokescreen to attract support and deflect attention away from the real harm caused by gambling machines. Overall, the claims for community benefits do not justify the amount of money spent on these machines, which represents a tiny proportion of total gambling losses. Further, these machines provide an inefficient and expensive means of funding for local governments.
In NSW and Qld, poker machine clubs must estimate the value of the community benefits they provide. These benefits can include sporting activity, philanthropic purposes, and scholarships. In Victoria, however, clubs are required to record the community benefits they provide and publish them annually. The project assumes that these activities are recorded in these publications, but does not assess whether the costs are genuine community benefits. However, it is important to note that poker machine clubs are not the only ones to exploit the legislative loophole.
The costs of the gaming machine industry are not only high but also rising. However, the costs and negative effects of poker machines are increasingly being acknowledged. For instance, the impacts of the machines on the community have been documented by UnitingCare Australia. The community benefits claim is a means to legitimise the operation of poker machines. And while it is important to understand the costs and benefits of gambling, this research has revealed that there is no ‘perfect’ solution for regulating gambling.
The cost of the gambling machines on the community is justified by the claims of community benefits. Several reports have been produced on the subject. In Australia, the NSWOLGR and the VCGLR have published poker machine gambling reports. Table 2 provides basic information at a statewide level. From there, one can calculate the average loss for a poker machine user based on his or her income. These losses are small relative to the total poker machine expenditure, but they represent a modest proportion of the entire expenditure in NSW and the ACT.
As for the community benefit claim, the AFL-run pokies venues are not liable to pay corporate tax. However, club pokie venues must submit annual community benefit statements to prove that 8.3 per cent of their revenue goes to community purposes. These clubs receive significant tax breaks and don’t pay corporate tax. In fact, the Australian government’s Productivity Commission commented on the community benefit claim of club pokie venues.
In a study of the community benefits and costs of casino gambling in Australia, the government allowed clubs to put up “do you have a problem?” notices. These notices were not successful, as most addicts are unaware of their addiction until it is too late. Some even destroy their entire families. Some even embarrass their loved ones and friends. This general approach is a clear exploitation of the community.