The Australian Productivity Commission has been asked to investigate gambling and problem gambling in Australia, and has been tasked with delivering a final report to the federal government at the end of 2009, reports the Sydney Morning Herald this week.
The incidence of problem gambling, especially on poker machines, is estimated at around 2 percent of gamblers and is the motivation for the enquiry.
In the meantime, the gambling venues themselves, under the banner of Clubs Australia, have suggested interim measures that include allowing family members who suspect a gambling problem is building or exists to report the individual to the authorities.
The measure is one of several proposed by the registered clubs movement to challenge problem gambling. CA proposes that laws be introduced that require gambling officers to intervene on the request of a family member.
Once identified, problem gamblers would be banned from clubs until they successfully complete counselling. A pilot program, operating in South Australia from 2004, had handled 150 complaints and taken formal action in 10 cases, CA spokesmen revealed.
Whilst acknowledging that family reporting could cause problems in itself, Clubs Australia president Peter Newell opined that overall it was a good measure.
"If a 15-year-old went and asked for help for a parent figure, an authority (figure), what might happen to this kid when he got home?" Newell said during an address to the National Press Club this week. "There are circumstances like that, and I admit this is not perfect, but we feel it is still an opportunity that, generally speaking, would give families an opportunity to be heard."
Newell said that families have a right to be heard if they're being affected by a loved one's difficulties with gambling.
"They should have a right to approach a venue and that venue in turn again – without any fear of privacy issues – should have the right to approach a particular patron and as difficult as that might be at times discuss the families concerns."
Other measures to protect identified problem gamblers could include a ban on credit cards and tighter regulation of internet and telephone gambling, and for schools to implement financial literacy education programs.
Simply removing poker machines from clubs was not a viable option for the nation's 4 000 clubs, Newell said. "Clubs don't have their heads stuck in the sand when it comes to gambling and its consequences, but nor are we part of some Machiavellian plot to undermine society," he added.