I KNOW Eddie McGuire and I like him. He has fine social justice instincts. But Eddie - as well as all AFL presidents - needs to answer these questions since he is opposed to the Gillard/Wilkie reform of a pre-commitment card on the high-loss poker machines.
Eddie, how is a pre-commitment card on this dangerous product a tax on footy?
Players will only need a card on those high-loss machines where you can easily lose $1200 per hour or more. No card is needed for the low-loss $1-maximum-bet machines. The Productivity Commission found 88 per cent of people do not bet more than $1 spins. The recreational punter will not even notice these changes. Other parts of the world have these low-loss recreational machines. In Britain, you can lose $30-$40 an hour. In contrast, Australia has the greatest number of high-loss pokies. We have the greatest number of high-loss machines in the world and they are the crack cocaine of pokies. We have the highest per capita gambling losses and highest per capita levels of addiction.
Eddie, who pays $1200 for an hour's entertainment?
The answer, according to the Productivity Commission, is problem gamblers. These are people who, by definition, have no freedom to choose because they are hooked. Their children go hungry, they go bankrupt and often to prison and the crime they commit is second only to illicit drugs, according to the Victorian Justice Department.
Why do you call this a tax?
The pre-commitment card is not a tax nor is it a licence as the clubs misleadingly describe it. The government won't know what limits punters set on their card nor does it or anyone else tell them what limit to set. Yet it is an important tool in the punter's pre-play sober moment that requires them to think, ''Can I face my partner and kids tonight if I lose more than, say, $300? I will set a limit and then when I hit it, I will be locked out from playing on.''
Why do you say this pokies tax on footy came out of nowhere? There has been more than a decade of debate and recommendations to curb the damage. This is why the public overwhelming supports this reform (67 per cent, according to the Essential poll). The public is sick of the crime and social damage.
In 1999, the Productivity Commission showed that more than 40 per cent of pokies losses came from problem gamblers. John Howard responded and said ''he was ashamed'', but that it was a state matter.
In 2010, the Productivity Commission found the same proportion of profits (40 per cent) came from the addicted - that is almost $5 billion of the $12 billion lost annually on pokies. So it recommended pre-commitment cards and $1 maximum bets. These reforms did not come as a surprise or out of nowhere. Eddie, as I say to clubs and pubs who cry we will go broke (they won't), what responsible business depends on 40 per cent of its profits from addicted people?
I love my AFL, but with the $1.2 billion over five years in TV licence fees, the AFL does not need to depend on addiction and destroying lives to run the game. Remember, Eddie, that WA has no pokies outside Burswood Casino - none in suburbs and rural towns and it has plenty of clubs, community functions and footy teams. Footy and community clubs should not be hooked on pokies and their devastation.
Tim Costello is chairman of the National Churches Gambling Taskforce.