Australia PM Sets Tighter Gambling Laws

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is determined to regulate the country’s $10 billion slot-machine industry; if she succeeds in her bid to form a minority government after inconclusive elections the previous month.

Gillard became the favourite to retain power on Thursday after Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie said he would support her Labour party providing she’s willing to reform gambling.

“I have judged that it is in fact (Labour) that best meets my criteria that the next government must be stable, competent and ethical,” said Wilkie, who blamed slot machines for causing addiction and misery to most families.

Under the agreement with Wilkie, Gillard has promised to push for the gambling industry to adopt new technology that would enable gamblers to pre-set limits on how much they were prepared to wager on slot machines.  This measure target’s those gamblers who are addicted to gambling and can’t control themselves.

Canberra would place pressure on state governments to enforce such reforms.  The states are responsible for regulating gambling and depend heavily on the industry’s taxation revenues.

Listed Australian firms that rely on slot-machine revenues include gaming and wagering groups Tabcorp Holdings, Tatts and Crown as well as Aristocrat Leisure, the world’s second-largest manufacturer of slot machines.  Analysts said these reforms impact negative on the industry overall but saw a limited impact on Tatts and Tabcorp.

“I don’t think it will affect those two at all because they are not going to be in gaming after fiscal 2012 anyway. It’s a non-core business of theirs now because they have lost the licence. They’re just running the business down really,” said David Spry, research manager at F.W. Holst.

“It’s a bit of kite-flying stuff.  It would be a couple of years down the track anyway if it happened at all. I would think it would have a pretty small impact,” he said.

“There’s no growth in it, it hasn’t gone forward. It will grow no more than the growth in household disposable incomes really, which is about 3 percent,” he concluded.

Slot machines are found in pubs, not just casinos.  Australians gambled A$10.5 billion on slot machines in pubs and clubs last year, and another A$1.4 billion on machines in casinos, according to government data.

Tabcorp shares prices up a tad to 0.5 percent to A$6.50 while Tatts Group rose 0.9 percent to A$2.32 on Thursday in an overall market up 0.8 percent .AXJO



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