I remember speaking many years ago to an old friend, Justice Xavier Connor, after he had completed an enquiry for the Victorian Government on a possible casino in Melbourne. He recommended against it.
He said ‘John, gambling and casinos everywhere in the world attract criminals and organised crime. It is like bees around a honeypot. Criminals are naturally attracted to gambling and casinos.’
We have had warnings that the gambling industry has enormous power and influence. Look how easily it ran off the rails the attempts by Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenophon to curb problem gambling in licensed premises in Australia.
Only a couple of weeks ago, the brilliant young footballer, Ben Barba, withdrew from rugby league and admitted that he had serious personal problems with gambling and alcohol. The Canterbury Leagues Club was praised for the way it handled Ben Barba’s personal problems. But what of the culture of the Leagues Clubs, those pleasure domes of gambling and liquor, who cause so much damage not just to Ben Barba but also to thousands of others.
We see saturation advertising of gambling and liquor in association with sporting events. We can get the odds for a bet on a game in progress from Sportsbet. Individuals are charged with match-fixing. Our Australian cricket team carries the logo of Victorian Bitter without blushing about the damage that liquor does in this country, way beyond the damage of illicit drugs.
The liquor and gambling PR people work overtime telling us that they are committed to responsible drinking and gambling. Please spare us the hypocrisy! We are urged to forget the problem drinkers and gamblers who wreck their own lives and their own families.
Fifty years ago, President Eisenhower warned Americans about the power of the military and industrial complex. Who in Australia is really concerned about the growing power of our gambling and liquor complexes?