The Alliance for Gambling Reform has slammed plans for a mega casino in Brisbane, saying the gambling industry is Australia’s “blind spot” and akin to the National Rifle Association in America.
Today is the last day for public consultation on the entertainment precinct at Queen’s Wharf, which will include a casino.
The criticism of Queen’s Wharf comes a day after whistleblowers alleged Melbourne’s Crown deliberately tampered with poker machines and turned a blind eye to drug use and family violence.
Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello told ABC Brisbane’s Steve Austin the development in Brisbane was “totally irresponsible”.
“Where other states have one casino — Sydney is about to get two — Queensland is leading the charge with the number of casinos, so I really think this is a bankrupt social policy,” he said.
He said the gambling industry was a “blind spot” in Australia “like America’s blind spot is guns”.
“The casino and gaming industry in Australia is the equivalent of the NRA — we have 20 per cent of the world’s pokies, just like Americans have so many guns,” Mr Costello said.
“This blind spot means we are the greatest problem gamblers by a country mile — way behind Singapore and then Ireland.”
Casinos depend on pokies to ‘prop everything up’
Mr Costello said state governments were “in bed” with the captains of the gaming industry when they should be protecting the vulnerable.
He said the Queensland Government had accepted the industry line of attracting “high rollers who’ll drop a lot of money” despite the casino business model depending on pokies to “prop everything up”.
“Casinos are like laws unto themselves — they really run state governments and treasuries and it’s a cosy little deal largely locking all transparency and public criticism,” he said.
“As we’re seeing with Crown and the regulator after these explosive allegations, sending in the regulator to investigate Crown is the State Government of Victoria investigating itself.”
Victoria’s gambling regulator said it would “thoroughly investigate” the claims made against Crown by three former staff members.
But those staff members said the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) had previously discovered machines had been altered, and took no action except order they be fixed.
Brisbane development will ‘create jobs, draw visitors’
Star Entertainment Group has already started work on its Brisbane development, which it said would create more than 2,000 construction jobs, and 8,000 more jobs once the precinct was up and running.
The Government said the precinct would attract 1.39 million new visitors to the city.
But Mr Costello said the picture the project’s backers painted was far from what the reality would be.
“The actual effect will be increased domestic violence [and] greater bankruptcy of smaller businesses because there’s only so much discretionary income,” he said.
“It will see far more crime, not to mention kids going hungry, and all the ripple effects we see.”
The Queensland Government and Star Entertainment Group have been contacted for comment.