In which I make some predictions

I just filled out Malcolm Turnbull's "survey on problem gambling", being as I am, it seems, now an advocate for pokie reform.

I noted with interest the way the survey was laid out.

  • It questioned whether I supported mandatory pre-commitment
  • It questioned whether I supported voluntary pre-commitment
  • It questioned whether I supported limiting bets
  • It questioned whether I supported increased counselling for problem gamblers.

In these questions, we see the contrast between Labor and Coalition plans on this topic. Labor are seeking to introduce a limited version of mandatory pre-commitment, for high-intensity machines only. The coalition opposes this, and instead makes calls for increased counselling and voluntary schemes.

So here's my take on the survey, and some Mystical Psychic Predictions. And some rambling.

I support mandatory pre-commitment for high-bet machines. I am ambivalent on pre-commitment for low-intensity machines. I don't play the pokies, but I think you should be allowed to slap a couple of bucks in now and again if you want - so I don't think pre-commitment is useful on "casual" machines.

However, Malcolm's survey question does not differentiate between the high-intensity-only proposal, and a mandatory blanket scheme - just like much of the vitriol and nonsense coming from the "pro-pokies" crowd. Perhaps it's just shorthand? Or is it a dog-whistle to the "pre-commitment will screw everyone" crowd?

So, prediction 1: At some point, this survey will be used to show that there exists low support for mandatory pre-commitment, because many people will interpret the question, deliberately or otherwise, as "blanket" rather than "high intensity only"

Of course, while I think high-intensity mandatory commitment is a pretty good idea, I also think that an additional voluntary scheme might be good on lower-intensity machines. Additionally, I think that should mandatory pre-commitment fail to fly, that voluntary is the next best thing. And the next question take on voluntary schemes. Malcolm's question, however makes no connection to madatory schemes.

There's no way to express "If mandatory won't fly, let's have voluntary" or "if we have mandatory high intensity, we don't need an additional voluntary scheme", or "let's have a blend", so...

Prediction 2: At some point, this survey will be used to demonstrate that more people support voluntary schemes than mandatory schemes, in effect setting up a false dichotomy

Malcolm then asks about limiting bets. Again, the question is presented out of context to other schemes. I happen to think that limiting bets to $1 is too nanny-state even for me, especially if applied in a blanket manner, but again, no nuance. I think $1 a line is low, but maybe $20 or $30 a line is pushing things a bit high. Most states seem to have about $10 max at the moment. Does that mean a ceiling needs to be changed? I don't know but I don't think it does. So...

Prediction 3: At some point, this survey will be used to demonstrate that support for bet limiting is vanishingly small, without crucially including the point that the question called out $1 bet limiting.

And finally, Malcolm asks about counselling. Do I support more counselling? Damn straight I do, though the data suggest there's a low uptake among problem gamblers - so fund should concentrate on getting better uptake, not merely adding sessions. Still, this one is the no-brainer. No-one in their right mind objects to additional counselling from qualified professionals. So...

Prediction 4: At some point, this survey will be used to show that counselling, the no brainer, is the most popular choice, therefore the coalition are godddamned geniuses of the highest order and vote for us now bitches.

Of course, all of this comes under the rough heading of false dichotomy (quadrichotomy?). Who says multiple approaches cannot be taken? I support three of the positions, with provisos to clean up the sloppy wording. I could possibly be persuaded on the fourth. I'm yet to be fully convinced on the roIe of counselling, and I'm pretty sure voluntary pre-commitment is weak, based on what I've read so far - but both are far better than nothing.

So I want reform, and I support the Labor plan (with provisos).

However my answers to Turnbull's survey could be used in a manner that does not accurately illustrate my position.

But why am I surprised? The "debate" is full of dodgy rhetoric, bad logic and a pervasive lack of nuance.

Prediction 5: This rather unscientific survey will not be used in policy (you'd be insane), but will come up in talking points with monotonous regularity.

And the survey rounds out with a question on banning odds advertising during sports broadcasts. Colour me uninterested.


However, this poll is not aimed at me. It's aimed clearly and squarely at the rent-a-crowd whipped up by Clubs Australia, and you can guarantee it's doing the rounds of RSL mailing lists as we speak. Whatever results come out will fail to be representative, but they will succeed in being beautifully malleable to whatever purpose you want to give them.

Look, I hate pokies. I'm a pub-goer who attends in order to have a few beers, do the crossword, read a book, hack some code or (weirdly enough) talk with my friends. Pokies are not part of that picture, they're flashing intrusive noisy fucking horrors and I would love to see them gone forever. But I know that change can't happen overnight, and I know some people genuinely like them. So they'll never go away completely. But I'd like them to at least fade into the background.

I also kinda like Malcolm Turnbull - he's tech savvy (apart from a seeming blind spot about web surveys), and is well away from Tony's wacky climate-change-is-not-real jalopy ride. I can deal with him. But I don't like the smell of this survey.

Not one bit.

And finally, a word from the sneering bogan voice in my head:

 "Malcolm Turnbull's web survey showed that mandatory pre-commitment will cause a small queue when registering, so your children will be outside the RSL in the sun-baked car for a crucial extra forty-five seconds. That forty-five seconds could be the difference between life, death, and having your Commodore windows smashed by a City Ranger. WHY DOES LABOR HATE CHILDREN?? WHY DOES LABOR HATE HOLDENS??? Vote Coalition!


posted @ Monday, November 7, 2011 5:56 PM

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