Community callous and a Penchant for Pokies

This page calls out the RSL movement, Clubs NSW and of course the NSW government, providing you with the information and supporting documentation to prove unequivocally that their combined vested interest is in the proliferation of [perfidious] pokies even if this comes at the expense of the community as a whole. Sadly the $20 billion+ gambling tax revenue screams louder than the issues caused by pokie machine addiction, and until we collectively start shouting they (our government) are never going to hear us.

The “Fake RSL” Movement

Most people don’t realise when they enter an RSL club they are actually entering one of thousands of “fake RSLs” and for Don Rowe – the boss of the NSW branch of the Returned and Services League this ‘ponzi like scam’ is more than just an insult to the communities they apparently ‘support’, it’s a direct attack on the very core of the ANZAC spirit on which the RSL movement is based.

These ”fake RSL” clubs care more about building an empire for their management than they do about returned service people; more about cheap grog and grub and pokies jackpots than they do about the families of problem gamblers; more about lobbying to protect their vested interest than they do about Anzac Day.”They’ve tarnished our name, regrettably,” Rowe said this week in threatening to cut ties with the licensed RSL clubs, adding ”in some cases they’ve trashed the brand”.

don rowe president RSL Clubs NSW

President of the NSW branch of the Returned and Services League, Don Rowe.

Rowe was speaking out for the service people, reservists, peacekeepers, Women’s Land Army and volunteer medical support staff who belong to RSL sub-branches. They are distinct from almost 300 registered RSL and ex-servicemen’s clubs in NSW. These registered clubs are already involved to some extent in supporting Anzac Day commemorations. After all, it’s a big day of drinking and gambling.

But most people don’t realise when they enter an RSL club they are really entering a fake one that uses the name and often the premises of the real one – the sub-branch. As Rowe told ABC Radio, the sub-branch is often hidden away, out the back in a little office. Continuing on, Rowe laments:

So as always I will attend the Anzac Day dawn service on Thursday and probably go into the ”club” for cheap tucker and booze later.
But I will do so knowing that the professional managers and non-servicemen who run ”fake RSL” clubs are perpetuating a Ponzi scheme that preys on the vulnerable.

Don raises an interesting point about the nature of how these Fake RSL’s and government operate – one that I feel needs scrutinising.

A Government Backed Ponzi Scheme?

[According to Wiki] A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation where the operator, an individual or organization, (ClubsNSW) pays returns (Tax on Pokies) to its investors (The NSW Government) from new capital (Gambling on Pokies) paid to the operators by new investors (Problem Gamblers, You, Me. US!), rather than from profit earned through legitimate sources (The Sports, Entertainment, Bowling, sponsorships, misc Activities Provided by Local Clubs)

The rort relies on attracting new problem gamblers and drinkers. Their losses and misfortune fund the subsidised booze and grub and sports outings of other members as well as the careers of club management and staff.

Not For Profit? Not For People!

Our government and ClubsNSW continue to operate their ponzi scheme at the expense of the communities they purport to support – funneling as little as possible of their profits into activities that might serve to improve life for members and the community as a whole, but the biggest insult of all is the fact these ”fake RSL” clubs enjoy the tax benefits of being not for profit!

Not for profit?!!? Considering the fact their expenditure focus is on the expansion of their customer base and the proliferation of pokies it feels like a slap in the face to every Australian who ever observed a minutes silence on the 11th of the 11th.

pokies create revenue and community problems


In fact not only are ClubsNSW and the Fake RSLs avoiding community related funding where possible, they are focusing on funnelling ”surpluses” from pokies and gambling losses into bigger, brighter venues for vulnerable people to lose on the pokies – thus the proliferation of these perfidious pokies continues unabated.  How much exactly you ask?

To put it bluntly, not enough – not even close. The annual report of licensed clubs umbrella lobby group ClubsNSW says its focus is to:

”deliver a range of relavant [sic] and affordable services and effective representation that helps create long-term sustainability for the club industry.
As well, we seek to improve conditions for those working within the NSW club industry and the local communities they support.”


And yet the statistics tell a very different story. The following is sourced from the Victorian Commision for Gambling and Liquor Regulation and so reflects VIC-Clubs, but really its the same shit, (slightly) different smell. As you can see the focus is on maintaining the club premises and their associated properties. The term “sporting facilities” is used very liberally as this refers to the entire club property and includes new gaming rooms. Not very sporting if you ask this author.

Further to this, only 1.8% of the $50million + in profits went towards community related services – and of this pathetically measly amount only 0.1% went to the prevention or treatment of problem gambling! Case in point.

how much do RSL clubs contribute to community


So it’s up to individuals to fix it at club level. But only 5 per cent of licensed club members are also ”real RSL” sub-branch members. It is true the ”real RSL” members have representation on most licensed RSL club boards. But they are often older and outnumbered by those with self-serving ”fake RSL” motives. To redress this imbalance, caring club members and new arrivals need to be active in standing up for the ”real RSL” ideals. That will require lateral thinking to find new community-friendly revenue sources to replace the reliance on pokies and booze. It will also create tensions with fellow club members blissfully ignorant of the problems.

But the ”fake RSL” forces cannot be allowed to keep compromising the Anzac tradition of helping your mates.

lest we forget about the RSL and play pokies online Lest we Forget

Read more and find further supporting documentation here:

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

We’ve established (absolutely) that these ”fake RSL” clubs care more about building an empire for their management than they do about returned service people. The focus is on cheap alcohol and pokies jackpots so while they focus their energy on lobbying to protect their vested interest, the problem gamblers, their families and the ANZAC spirit as a whole is left to shrivel up and die. But these ”fake RSL” clubs have had plenty of help doing that. Consecutive state governments have relied on problem gamblers playing pokies to keep the revenue flowing into their budgets.

tax revenue from pokies and gambling


In fact State and territory governments increasingly rely on gambling tax for revenue, which helps explain why Australia is currently going backwards on the issue of problem gambling and pokie addiction, despite clear evidence of a public health threat 

You Did What Now?!?

July 2015  and the Gillard Government has proposed gambling reforms that will serve to improve the lives of those affected by problem gambling as well as help reduce the alarming growth of people with an addiction to the pokies. These recommendations had come from a number of sources and were also motivated by the growing cost of problem gambling on society and the government.

FACT: The Actions of one problem gambler negatively impacts the lives of between 5 and 10 others, meaning up to 5 million Australians are directly affected by problem gambling each year, and the latest statistics indicate that 1 in 6 Australians has a severe gambling problem. 1 in 6!
So extensive are the impacts that the social cost of problem gambling to the community is estimated to be at least $4.7 billion each year. (Source)

Despite these alarming figures, and the recommendations of experts from a variety of fields the Gillard Government decided that even though every other state had implemented these changes, NSW didn’t need them – in fact thanks to the bullying tactics of ClubsNSW and their comprehensive demolition of the Gillard government’s reforms to tackle problem gambling, the gambling industry has pressed home its advantage by extracting further concessions to increase its profits, guarantee its further expansion, and increase the misery of the estimated 115,000 mainly low-income Australians with a serious gambling addiction – one mostly caused by the pokies.

  • The reason why Labor and Gillard failed is in line 1 of commitments under gaming taxation –>
  • The changes stem from a pre-election commitment by the NSW Liberals and Nationals to secure the support of Clubs NSW, the most powerful part of the lobby that mounted an expensive campaign to torpedo the Gillard government’s plans for gambling reform. The measures are spelled out in a memorandum of understanding that also includes a promise to “retain existing gaming machine operating conditions”, with any proposals for change requiring “rigorous assessment” and consultation.
    In other words, don’t dare lift a finger without telling us or we’ll hit you with another campaign. Needless to say, the public were not party to this agreement.

Pokie Power Replaces People Power


NSW RSLs want more pokies - Copy

And now as a result of the most recent changes, gamblers in NSW clubs can now store $5,000 in an account or a smart card – a 25-fold increase from the previous standard limit of $200. As well, they can receive up to $5,000 of their winnings in cash, whereas previously amounts over $2,000 had to be paid by cheque or electronic funds transfer.

Monash University’s Charles Livingstone, an authority on gambling issues, says it is hard to fathom why a player would want $5,000 so readily at hand unless they had a very serious issue with poker machine gambling. He describes the other measure – raising the threshold for cheques or EFT to $5,000 – as “a recipe to ensure that problem gamblers … simply pour their winnings back into the machine ASAP”.

But wait, that’s not all. In what the government argues is a counter-balance, there is a reduction from $10,000 to $7,500 in the maximum amount pokie players can insert and store in machines and an increase from three to six months in the minimum period problem gamblers can ban themselves from venues. If that looks like tokenism, that is because it is.

This is supposed to be a harmless entertainment. Why on earth would you need to put $7,500 in a poker machine in a club or pub if it were genuinely merely harmless fun? The only impact of this is to make money laundering slightly more difficult, but only slightly.


There are some common themes in the backsliding by governments. In Queensland, the Newman government also changed the rules to allow winnings of up to $5,000 to be paid in cash. Previously, jackpots could only be paid out by cheque and the cheque could not be cashed at the gambling venue for at least 24 hours – tougher rules than those that used to apply in NSW. Like the Baird Government, the Newman government justified this and a raft of other changes in the name of reducing red tape.

Livingstone and his Monash University colleague Louise Francis had a different explanation in a report last year commissioned by the Anglican Church:

This is clearly in the interests of EGM [electronic gaming machine or poker machine] venue operators and against the interests of people experiencing issues with gambling… In our opinion, this is a wholly detrimental measure that cannot be justified on ‘red tape reduction’ principles. Instead it appears intended to increase the likelihood that EGM users, especially problem gamblers who win substantial amounts, will, in all likelihood, lose those funds at the same venue.

The Queensland changes also increase the number of poker machines allowed under a club licence from 280 to 500, with a maximum of 300 at one venue. Livingstone and Francis said the likely effect would be to increase the average size of venues with poker machines and that it was well established that larger establishments generated more revenue per machine. “There is significant potential for exacerbating gambling related harm in vulnerable communities as a result of increasing allowable machine numbers in venues,” they said.

what we spend on pokies per location in nsw More Pokies = More Misery, I mean MONEY!

Last December, the Northern Territory Government announced an increase in the number of poker machines allowed in hotels from 10 to 20 and in clubs from 45 to 55. What of the $150,000 donation by the Australian Hotels Association to the governing Country Liberal Party before the last election? We have the word of Gaming Minister Peter Styles that it did not influence the Government’s decision.

These measures are on top of the Abbott Government’s repeal last year, with Labor’s support, of the few measures that survived the onslaught from the clubs on the Gillard government. They included limits on withdrawals from ATMs, the installation of so-called pre-commitment technology on replacement poker machines so as to allow players to nominate beforehand the maximum amount they were prepared to lose, and a trial of a mandatory pre-commitment scheme.

Together, these decisions represent a big step in the wrong direction at a time when studies by the Productivity Commission and others have confronted us with the reality of problem gambling – bankruptcies, family break-ups, crime and suicide. Addiction to gambling is as much a public health issue as smoking or drug addiction.

What governments have done is akin to re-introducing smoking in restaurants and bars.

The Cost Of Gambling on Australian Society

total social cost of problem gambling - Copy

Total gambling expenditure per head in Australia grew after inflation from $577 in 1986-87 to $1,179 in 2011-12. That meant total gambling losses of $20.5 billion in 2011-12, 84 per cent of it on gaming, with the rest on racing and sports betting. Considering Australians spend more per head on gambling than any other country, why are governments encouraging further growth of a harmful industry?

Because government policy on gambling is compromised on multiple fronts. State and territory governments increasingly have relied on it for revenue, with their takings almost doubling after inflation to $5.5 billion in the 25 years to 2011-12.

With the growth of the industry has come the increase in the power of the clubs and hotel lobbies, and that power has included making political donations. In the Northern Territory, the Australian Hotels Association gave the same amount – $150,000 – to the Labor Party before the last election as to the Country Liberal Party.

The last time there were meaningful measures to control gambling was in Victoria more than five years ago. They included a $5 maximum bet – a change Livingstone says was introduced without industry opposition. He adds that a $1 maximum would reduce the harmful effects of gambling, given that 80 per cent of problem gambling stems from poker machines.

Among the politicians, only independents like Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie are prepared these days to stand up to the gambling lobby. Wilkie put a bill for $1 bets, among other measures, before Parliament last November but the Abbott Government refused to allow it to come up for debate.

Xenophon plans to introduce into the spring session of Parliament a bill to apply restrictions to online gambling. This is emerging as a threat, even while the much larger one from poker machines remains to be tackled.

More information on the Costs of Gambling and associated Statistics can be found here:

Further reading and supporting articles can be found throughout our blog under the various categories.