Judging by comments from global gambling union delegates meeting in Switzerland this week, the online and mobile gambling industry should not expect too much support from this quarter. Gambling unions in Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Malaysia, Netherlands, Spain and the USA sent delegates to the event.
The delegates were attending a UNI Global union meeting in Nyon, Switzerland, where the casino chapter made
several references to what it clearly sees is a threat from online gambling. UNI is the global union for skills and services in various sectors, with a total of 15 million members in 900 unions.
Gaming trade unions from across the world agreed to work together to tackle online gambling which, it was claimed, "threatens jobs, creates new revenue that’s not always shared with the workers it depends upon and creates problems of unmonitored, addictive gambling."
Delegates were briefed on international developments affecting UNI Gaming , one of the fastest growing chapters of UNI Global.
Reporting on Asia, the meeting was informed that by 2010 Las Vegas-based Sands will derive 89 percent of its profits from Macau, and Las Vegas-based Wynn – which has one casino in Macau already and another under construction – will derive 60 percent from Macau by the same date. And multinationals are apparently interested in moving into new countries like Japan if strict gambling laws are relaxed.
Deutsche Bank predicts that $32 billion will be invested in the Asian gaming market between 2004 and 2010 – 70 percent of it in Macau, and Singapore has given the go ahead for two big casinos – one run by Sands and the other by Genting of Malaysia. UNI has opened a development office in Hong Kong and has been in discussion with unions in Macau to step up organising in the region.
Briefings on the erosion of state monopolies in European countries and the land gaming scene in Australia were also covered, noting that in the latter, 13 casinos employ 18 000 workers, generate more than A$3 billion in annual revenue, and where there are strict controls on Internet gambling, reported Matthew Gardiner, from LHMU.
For unions the challenge is to ensure that jobs in these new centres are unionised and that liberalisation and online gambling do not undermine existing jobs.
“Gaming is probably the fastest growing sector in UNI and like in other industries we have to work together to ensure that unionised and well paid jobs are defended and labour rights secured in the newly developing resorts,” said UNI Deputy General Secretary Philip Bowyer. “Global agreements with gaming multinationals could play an important role in ensuring dialogue and effective collective bargaining.”
In Las Vegas unions have collective agreements with Harrah’s (recently bought by private equity and moving into Spain with 7 000 new jobs), MGM Mirage (also with a casino in Macau) and Wynn Resorts, reported Ginny Coughlin from UNITE HERE. Las Vegas Sands is anti-union around the world but is forced to pay competitive rates in Las Vegas, she claimed.
“We believe that the Las Vegas model and Las Vegas companies – and others like PBL Australia – are going to expand dramatically in the coming years,” Coughlin told the meeting. “Casino employment will increase dramatically around the globe with a huge number of workers under the same employer.”
Lithuanian union LPSDPS signed its first collective agreement with Olympic casinos in 2006 and plans to help organising in new casinos as that company expands into other Baltic states, said Andrej Lipa.
A small working group was tasked with drawing up a common position on online gambling – unrestricted in some countries but banned in countries like the United States and Germany.
Delegates were told by Pieter Heinink of Vakbond ABC, Netherlands that the state-owned Holland Casino has been held up by parliamentarians in its plan to launch an online casino.
Mobile phone gambling is also a looming threat, said Bernhard Stracke from ver.di Germany, which strongly supported the legal ban on online gambling in that country. “The risk of addiction is huge and there is no protection for youngsters,” Stracke alleged.
“This [online gambling] is a real threat, a real risk for all our countries,” said Miguel Rodriguez Gomez of FECHTJ-UGT Spain.
In a move that reflects the global nature of the industry the meeting appointed Co-Presidents Pieter Heinink from the Netherlands and Robert Vijendran Henry from RWEU, Malaysia – and two Vice Presidents Daniel Amoroso of ALEARA Argentina and Pilar Rato Rodriguez of FECOHT-CC.OO Spain.
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