Despite a series of investigations into the avid poker machine business of registered clubs, and various invitations to defend their position, ClubsNSW remains silent. They threatened Andrew Wilkie—an independent MP with a defamation suit and routinely complaining to media houses about perceived negative media coverage of clubs and the pokie industry.
But it appears that as there is no hierarchy to complain to, the only strategy to tie a media organization in paperwork and prevent further coverage is to just ignore it. But will ClubsNSW make it in fighting all the controversies surrounding it?
ClubsNSW Sues Australian Press Council over a post in SMH
The latest complaint by ClubsNSW was about articles by Nick O’Malley a journalist with the SMH. Their main concern was about the article that stated that the number of Pokies are set to tie be on the rise under new laws and especially in the vulnerable areas.
The group which represents 1200 clubs across NSW claimed that the story and the headline were incorrect and deceptive in saying that the projected changes could lead to an increase in poker machines across low income parts of the state as a result of the state government’s rules on minimizing the number of machines and restrictions on their being located in vulnerable areas.
ClubsNSW went on to allege that the story was wrong in saying smaller regional clubs could rent their ill-performing pokies to well performing venues in high income areas like the south-western Sydney suburb of Fairfield. The club stated that the publication ignored its request for correction of these statements.
Responding to the accusations, the Press Council stated that the stories were nether unfair, inaccurate or misleading. The verdict stated that the council considers that as proposed changes allow clubs the option of leasing machines to other clubs without the previous penalty requirements, it is unlikely that reduction in machine numbers will occur by loss of machines upon sale. The council feels that there is a possibility for more machines to be introduced as a result of the anticipated changes than would have been the case if no changes were made. They, therefore, concluded that the article was not unfair, misleading, inaccurate or unbalanced in that respect.
ClubsNSW Drops Charges against Independent MP Andrew Wilkie
The club has also dropped the case against the Federal MP Andrew Wilkie over his comments about pokie machine industry. They filed a case against Mr Wilkie and the ABC and after airing a story on the betting industry. This was according to an article by ABC. The story also includes former Labor minister Peter Garret making a claim that ClubsNSW has given him an envelope containing cash that he handed back immediately.
There was no reason given as to why the case was dropped but there have been suggestions that ClubsNSW was concerned the legal detection process could possibly allow Wilkie access to sensitive information about the group.
Mr. Wilkie continued to say that he would continue pointing out the harm that the poker machine industry is doing in the country, and in particular in this state which houses more than half of the poker machines in Australia.
A report by the Productivity Commission in 21010 revealed that almost 41% of poker machine income came from at-risk or addicted gamblers.
What can we learn from this scenario?
There are several messages that can be gained from the combative behaviour of lobby groups, the likes of ClubsNSW.
- They are designed to keep the media from covering issues of high public interest
- As a warning, it works. It leads to possible self-censorship and caution by media not wishing to be tied up in red tape or threatened
- It is a tactic to fight hostile coverage in autonomous media
It is a fact that the abundance of poker machines is a potential cause of social distress; it is a cause of suicide, theft, addictive habit and family breakdowns. The cost of cleaning up after this predatory industry is quite high, yet politicians are virtually powerless.
According to a story in The Conversation, a search of the Australian Electoral Commission political support registers discloses that between July 1999 and June 2015, ClubsNSW confirmed political donations worth $2.5M. Almost all of this cash went to either to the Coalition or the ALP parties. Other contributions went to units linked to the parties including a contribution to the Millennium Forum 2012-13, a sub-unit of the Liberal Party. This was a little before the group was drawn to the public’s attention in unfortunate statuses before NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption