Victoria’s multi-billion-dollar gambling problem will be the target of nine major research projects to be launched today by the State Government’s Gambling Research Panel.
Panel chairwoman Linda Hancock said yesterday the research projects would investigate the social and economic costs of gambling and causes of problem gambling, and identify strategies to minimise harm caused by excessive gambling.
The research will cost about $500,000.
Associate Professor Hancock, director of Deakin University’s Public Policy Program, said further projects could be announced, with the results of all studies to be reported to parliament.
“The projects will go across the spectrum in terms of gambling in Victoria, looking at government regulation issues as well as the level of services available for problem gamblers,” Professor Hancock said.
Today’s announcement of research projects comes just days after the government revealed that Victorians lost $2.36 billion on poker machines in the last financial year – a $200 million increase on the previous year.
Gaming Minister John Pandazopoulos, who has come under pressure for failing to halt gaming losses, created the panel last year to provide the government with research independent of the gaming regulator, the Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority.
The panel, which includes Monash University’s head of sociology, Christopher Chamberlain, and Victoria University of Technology chancellor Peter Laver, will have a large budget from which to commission and publish research.
When announcing the panel members in October last year, Mr Pandazopoulos said the panel would be able to draw money from the government’s Community Support Fund, which gets 8 per cent of all gaming-machine losses in Victorian hotels.
Opposition gaming spokesman Ted Baillieu again attacked the government’s gaming policies yesterday, saying it was interested only in “cosmetic solutions” to problem gambling.
Mr Baillieu said the government’s approach to gaming was hypocritical, because although it had announced a reduction of 400 poker machines in problem areas over the next three years, it allowed those machines to be placed in other regions.
“Their main best online casino singapore – game in opposition was to reduce the tax take from gambling, but now that they’re in government they’ve gone in the completely opposite direction,” he said.
Despite his criticism of the government’s reliance on gaming revenue, Mr Baillieu baulked at backing Interchurch Gambling Taskforce and Victorian Local Governance Association calls to have poker machine numbers halved to 15,000.
“I think that would be very difficult because there is the issue of sovereign risk involved,” he said.
Gippsland West independent MP Susan Davies also weighed into the gaming debate yesterday, urging both sides of politics to look at banning smoking in gaming venues by passing legislation in the spring session of parliament.
Ms Davies said there was strong evidence to suggest that problem gamblers were often also heavy smokers.
“Banning smoking in gaming venues would be one very positive way of getting many problem gamblers to take a break from the machines,” she said.
Ms Davies said she would introduce a private member’s bill to ban smoking in gaming venues if the opposition indicated it would support her.