This is the second part of a series investigating the true ownership of New South Wales.
“I’ve been up two and a half million” Jim says to Frank as he pleads his case for a loan. Frank asks “What you got on you?” to which Jim replies “Nothing”. Frank asks “What you put away?” “Nothing.” Frank’s heard enough. “ You get up two and a half million dollars, any asshole in the world knows what to do: you get a house with a 25 year roof, an indestructible Jap-economy shitbox, you put the rest into the system at three to five percent to pay your taxes and that’s your base, get me? That’s your fortress of fucking solitude. That puts you, for the rest of your life, at a level of fuck you. Somebody wants you to do something, fuck you. Boss pisses you off, fuck you! Own your house. Have a couple bucks in the bank. Don’t drink. That’s all I have to say to anybody on any social level. Did your grandfather take risks? I guarantee he did it from a position of fuck you. A wise man’s life is based around fuck you. The United States of America is based on fuck you. You have a navy? Greatest army in the history of mankind? Fuck you! Blow me. We’ll fuck it up ourselves.”
The profound bit of advice above is taken from an exchange in 2014’s “The Gambler” between college professor Jim Bennett (played by Mark Wahlberg) and wise old loan shark, Frank (John Goodman, in a brilliant supporting performance). Jim is a severe gambling addict, constantly borrowing too much from the wrong people and digging himself a bigger hole. Wahlberg, helped by a fantastic script, delivers a strong performance giving us an accurate insight into the mindset and behaviour of a gambling addict. But it’s Goodman who steals the show with his, “The Position of Fuck You” monologue – a truth bomb so real, wealth and investment blogs base articles around it.
The scene is particularly relevant to what I’m writing about in this article which is part of a series looking at who really owns and runs this city. Jim’s boasts about being up two and half million dollars will strike a chord with anyone who is or knows a problem gambler. His admission of now not having a dime to show for it will even more. You don’t need to be a gambler chasing that elusive jackpot to want what Frank is talking about. That’s what we all want in life really. Many of us are there, I’d like to think I’m well on the way and some have a bit of work to do. However there are a few who are in that position who take things a little too far. Just like the USA, as Frank suggests, New South Wales is also based on “fuck you”. And boy, don’t we know it!
A lot of people still hold onto the belief that the liquor industry calls the shots around town. This has not been the case for some time, so much so that former liquor industry heavyweights have now jumped ship and are all about promoting their new friends interests. Make no mistake, the gambling dollar rules this city and this state. We’ll be looking into a few more of the parties who control the machines who control everything else later on. Previously, the series started with a look into the Millionaires Factory. Specifically –
- Their financial investment with the Star and their man on the board
- An audacious joint venture purchase of seven casinos with James Packer
- Local gaming interests via ALE and their $2 billion portfolio of property, made up entirely of pubs leased Woolworths owned ALH. 4% of the countries gaming venues are ALH hotels and they own 6% of the countries poker machines. That’s 12,000 all up, more than any other group in Australia.
- Their influence with organisations such as Urbis and the NSW Treasury Corporation (TCorp)
It’s well known that poker machines are a scourge on society. In NSW alone, $73 billion was pumped through them last financial year. Not surprising considering in terms of machine ownership NSW is second only to Nevada. On a national level per capita, Australia is behind only a handful of designer tourism destinations such as Monaco, Macau and Sint Maarten. Oh, and Japan if you include their piss taking pachinko machines.
Not content with their massive collection of poker machines, our politicians are now setting their sights on the overseas online market. In September 2015 Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison announced a review into online wagering, under the guise of protecting consumers by looking to regulate the industry. Now, don’t get me wrong. This is probably one industry that could probably use regulations of sorts. I play poker with Titan Poker and they’re constantly trying to entice me to try out their “casino”, which is full of online pokies. The screenshot below isn’t a ridiculous, doctored picture. It’s a one of many games in the “casino” section of Titan Poker. Yes, you can actually do $2,500 hits.
But don’t let the moral intentions fool you. This review is not about regulations for the good of the community. The online gambling industry is worth $1.6 billion, with more than half going off shore. You can bet your last dollar the government wants a much bigger piece of that pie, if not the whole thing. The only problem here is, a lot of these online gambling sites are set up in places like the Bahamas where they are well and truly beyond the Australian government’s jurisdiction.
The review is also looking at bookies that are based overseas. Crownbet has been leading the charge for reform here, arguing for ISP blockers and all sorts of competition killing measures. The fact is, and I say as someone who bets on US sports at a moderate level, overseas bookies often provide different markets for their native sports and are appealing for that reason. American sites are regulated more than any with Australian licenses. The government has no right to restrict our access to these simply because they are not getting paid out of it. It was initially looking as though the response to online sports betting was going to be a win for Australian bookies and punters, with live betting regulations softened.
However in recent weeks, the opposite has been announced, with Bet 365, Sportsbet, Ladbrokes and William Hill facing the prospect of having to shut down their online live betting until at least the federal election. It’s worth pointing out Packer owned Crownbet did not offer this service. And if you weren’t aware of this review, or haven’t clicked the links, it’s definitely worth pointing out the man leading the review was the man who changed the law to pave the way for the Barangaroo casino. The man who ridiculed and then implemented lockout laws before promptly resigning in disgrace. That’s right, the man leading the review is none other than prominent wino and beacon of integrity, Barry O’Farrell, who pocketed $50,000 for the 3 month task. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
The NSW Government is a gambling addict. So too the Federal Government. Their obsession with gambling is well and truly out of control. Their addiction is causing a myriad of problems for everyone around them. Australians are wagering, and losing, more than anyone else in the world. It’s time an intervention was staged.
It’s well known that the state government benefits immensely thanks to the enormous tax payments collect each year. ILGA claims the average return to players in NSW is 90%, so therefore one could estimate poker machine profits for 2014-15 were $7.3 billion. However, the well-worn player return claims touted by machine manufacturers and championed by ILGA are slightly misleading. For starters, the “average return” is between 85% and 90%, generally with locally made machines being at 87% and Japanese made machines the most generous, around 90%. But hey, what’s a few percent when you’re talking in the tens of billions.
The above graph displays the total gambling tax revenue earned by the NSW government each year since 2006, as sourced from annual Crown Entity Financial Statements provided by NSW Treasury. As you can see, year government gambling earnings have grown by almost half a billion dollars in less than ten years. This growth has been almost exponential, other than a slight hiccup in ’07-08 attributed mainly to smoking law reform and in ’09-10 where the fallout from the GFC, along with recent reforms and a federal election were blamed. The industry was quite fortunate in ’08-09, while much of the world was heading into recession, the gaming industry was able to bounce back thanks mainly to the piss being taken out of the recently implemented smoking laws as well as Kevin Rudd and his ridiculous $42 billion stimulus package. Yes, that stimulus package that may have not even been needed or wanted. The resurgence in revenue seen in ’10-11 was quite spectacular, with more (favourable) changes to regulations, a stronger economic climate and a massive buy up from now defunct National Leisure & Gaming stimulating massive growth.
However the tax revenue pocketed during the great fight back of ’10-11 is chump change when compared to more recent surges. It comes as absolutely zero surprise that in 2014-15, revenue earned from gambling taxes cleared the $2 billion barrier for the first time ever coming in at a whopping $2.069 billion. This was an increase of over $172 million (9.07%) from the previous year. Coincidentally, in the same financial year Sydney casino The Star also enjoyed a career year, with revenue rising from $1.805 billion in 2013-14 to a cool $2.140 billion in 2014-15, an increase of $335 million. It remains to be seen whether this will continue. Normally I’d confidently bet on yes, however there have been some tough times as of late. A handful of VIP gamblers from across Asia have had quite the run of good luck, denting casino profits to the tune of $80 million early this year. I believe I speak for all when I say this is devastating news and my heart aches for their loss. Almost as much as it did in 2014 when poor Packer played pauper, tearfully declaring, hat in hand, “the punters are killing us”.
The Star suggests an extensive redevelopment completed in early 2013 deserves credit for this dramatic rise. Their new event facilities in particular are spectacular, no doubt they have attracted new business. But I feel the PR team is exaggerating their financial impact ever so slightly. Sydney Morning Herald State Political Editor Sean Nicholls, who has covered the casino extensively in the past, attributed this enormous growth to the 2014 appointment of new CEO Matt Bekier. I have no doubt Mr Bekier has achieved great things in his new role and can take credit for an immediate spike in share price. But with all due respect, Mr Nicholls is giving Mr Bekier a tiny bit too much credit here. There is no denying the controversial lockout laws have been a major contributing factor to this growth.
When the laws were implemented The Star instantly became one of the only inner Sydney venues accessible after 1.30am and serving after 3am. With no other options patronage surged with every person walking through the door a potential gaming customer. Or more worryingly, a potential problem gambler. Despite the glaring social and financial issues associated with gambling, politicians had no qualms about funnelling people to Pyrmont and exposing them to a world with the potential to ruin their life. Even respected members of the medical community joined the PR team. I’m not reaching when I say “funnelling” either. Out of the endless list of alternatives to lockouts people have suggested over the years, 24 hour transport pops up more frequently than most. Unfortunately this suggestion was tossed into the too hard basket. Late night transport has always been vastly inadequate and no attempt to change that was happening any time soon. Fast forward to January 2016 and what do we have here? Frequent 24 hour transport from Central to the Star. The population of Pyrmont is just over 11,000. This service is not about getting anybody home.
The NSW Government have a chronic addiction to (other people) gambling. What makes it so disturbing is the sheer destruction it causes in the community. Advocates will point to the 90% return claims to defend this insipid form of punting that exists only gouge your hard earned. Which all sounds fairly reasonable at face value. But of course it would. While it’s a legal requirement, it’s also used as marketing by stealth similar to how tobacco companies market cigarette vending machines in venues despite a total ban on advertising. It’s quite a simple ploy using signage that is legally required to be displayed. A very conspicuous non-smoking sign is placed above the vending machine. The signs stand out and can easily be noticed from anywhere in the vicinity, and once you’ve spotted the sign you’ve spotted where you can purchase cigarettes. Genius. It’s also a legal requirement to display the prize odds and returns poker machines offer. You see what the return is, it doesn’t sound too bad. With that information, it doesn’t even sound like much of a risk. Put in $100, chances are you’ll be winning at least $90. Why not! Which is exactly what they want you to think.
The reality is somewhat different though. Whilst the return rates are correct, they based on the life of the machine. Not per player or per session, or however you’ve perceived it. There is zero guarantee whatsoever that you will get a single dollar back from your not-so-wise investment. The reality is even more depressing for regular or problem gamblers. Machines are carefully designed and programmed to entice more betting. Addicted players are basically hypnotised by the sounds, lights and images the machine is constantly playing. But also the sequence of “wins”. Each spin is part of a pre-determined sequence which is also working against you. You’re tricked into thinking you just missed out on a big win had it have just kept on spinning a tiny bit. You’re convinced a free games feature is coming. A win may be on the way, it’s possible. But you won’t be able to tell by how the machine is behaving. Addicts never see anything close to the return over their pokie playing life because of this. Nobody puts $1,000 through the pokies and leaves with $900. The scenario described in this article paints a much more realistic picture. Addicts either take home a big sum or they go home broke. It’s very rarely the former – that’s one thing you can safely bet on.
In Las Vegas and other parts of the world, casinos offer world class entertainment and dining as well as the slots, tables and everything else you’d expect. In Australia, different story. Their entertainment ranks somewhere between non-existent and woeful. Apparently Crown wants to do something about that, so with a bit of luck they may actually bring something worthwhile to the city in that regard. But until then, we know what we have, and it’s not like they try to suggest otherwise. It’s not as though they advertise themselves as family friendly, pillars of the community than everyone can enjoy.
Registered clubs, on the other hand, portray themselves as exactly that. As you can see from the graphic above, they’re all about doing their bit. Clubs and RSL clubs have long been regarded as the kind of place you can go enjoy a beer with a mate, lunch with the family, bingo with grandparents and support worthy, local causes. “A substantial contributor to the social fabric of NSW”, according to the New South Wales Club Census 2011 – a report on the economic and social contribution of registered clubs in NSW.
Whilst there is no denying clubs do their bit for the community, the reality is the days where these establishments would cater for everyone and be social hubs for locals of all ages are long gone. Establishments such as Panthers, Rooty Hill RSL, Wests Leagues and Canterbury Leagues are all glorified casinos. In fact, some of these dwarf the actual casinos in Canada purchased by Packer and Macquarie Bank years ago. Others are far more uninspiring affairs, as you can see here as a local blogger laments the demise of his local. Either way, as highlighted in the first part of this serious, many of the mega-clubs are located in areas of socio-economic disadvantage and are in fact fleecing the very community they claim to be servicing. Unsurprisingly, the evangelicals are in on it too, with Dooley’s Catholic Club open until 4-6am, and you can be sure that the only sermons being delivered are from the drunk and broke old pensioner who has lost the lot for the third time this week. Thou shalt spin.
Each evening in every RSL club a minute silence is observed, after which the Ode of Remembrance is recited. It’s nice to see at least some traditions are still alive, especially one so important to the history of our country. Unfortunately that’s where the respect ends, as upon completion of the Ode, the familiar sound of the locals pissing away their hard earned resumes. Our diggers didn’t fight for this. They certainly didn’t fight for this.
The fact is, clubs in NSW rake in approximately $3 billion each year purely from poker machines. While they claim to be diverse entertainment options, almost two thirds of their revenue is derived from gaming. In 2007 new smoking regulations delivered a crushing blow to NSW clubs, wiping 10% of their gaming revenue. Significant investment was required to create outdoor gaming and smoking havens or in some cases, exploit loopholes in the laws to move machines into barely outdoor areas. Given the community spirit clubs so proudly use as a marketing tool hold dear, one would think they’d be prepared to take this hit as a cost of doing business, right? Wrong. Somebody had to pay. And that somebody turned out to be staff.
Between 2007 and 2011 the clubs industry shed about 4% of its workforce, with many who held onto their jobs being moved to more flexible arrangements with reduced hours. Donations given to various charities and community groups were greatly reduced. Whilst I initially assumed the job losses and belt tightening were due to the GFC, the census makes no mention of this whatsoever and attributes all revenue downturn to gaming. Specifically, the impact new smoking regulations had on gaming.
For any regular business faced with legislation so drastic you could understand there would need to be sacrifices and hard choices made. But clubs are a little different. For starters, their business model is not for profit and members based. Secondly, the tax they pay is far less, especially when it comes to poker machines with hotels paying almost double in some cases. So much for being all about the community. This reliance on gaming for revenue along with the special treatment received isn’t exclusive to the premier state though. As you can see from the national census, it’s a similar story across the country. This census is a worthwhile read, and also tackles the issues the industry faces moving forward, including various forms of immigration which it bizarrely refers to as– the rising new tribes of Australia.
The community benefits to the tune of $1.2 billion per year thanks to clubs, which is no doubt why the government allows them so many concessions. Other than the mountains of gaming revenue of course. Another reason may have something to do with the fact ClubsNSW are powerful lobbyists, with the ability to butter up whoever is (or is going to be) in power with sizeable political donations. One would assume a $5 billion per year industry where gaming makes up two thirds of their revenue would be banned from this practice. Parties with alcohol, gaming, tobacco and development interests (amongst others) are all banned from making political donations. However ClubsNSW inexplicably received an exemption from the ban. Despite most definitely being involved with alcohol, gaming, tobacco and development. A scandalous case of mutual back scratching if ever I saw one.
Seeing as though a certain someone from Fairfax branded this website an “anti-lockout blog”, I suppose it would be rude not to briefly mention their link to Clubs NSW. Chairman of Clubs NSW and President of Clubs Australia, Peter Newell has been very vocal in his opposition of lockouts. In Newcastle and in Queensland that is. Interestingly, he didn’t to have much to say about Sydney. But then again, only a handful of members were effected by those laws, so why bother putting powerful noses out of joint when you don’t really have a lot to gain personally? Incidentally, Mr Newell spent a decade as editor of Fairfax publication, the Illawarra Mercury until he was appointed General Manager, a position he held for 15 years until retiring July 2000.
Besides, the AHA was taking care of that! The all-powerful liquor lobby, led by the Australian Hotels Association would not be standing for these outrageous new measures! Surely they would come riding in to the debate like knights of the night in shining armour. With a word, this madness would be over. Or so thought the eternal optimists in the hospitality industry. And so think the ignorant lunatics in the prohibition and temperance societies. In fact, they still believe that and constantly ramble about the AHA, liquor lobby and “Big Alcohol” supporting the entire anti lockout movement. Granted, this was the case with one campaign in 2009, but that was a completely different fight. According to these nutjobs, Keep Sydney Open and anyone who is a vocal opponent of the laws is nothing more than a liquor industry shill. How wrong they all were.
Incidentally, I would love to know what all this “exposing” of “Big Alcohol” is all about. I’m assuming the wowsers believe there is some kind of liquor industry conspiracy going on, and they’re going to save us all from ourselves, despite not wanting or needing saving. Regardless, what could this conspiracy be? Alcohol consumption is at a 50 year low. Unless the conspiracy relates to some kind of diabolical scheme to gradually reduce their own sales over a few decades, I’m not really sure what the alcohol industry could be up to.
Back in reality, the AHA have had nothing to do with the fight against lockouts from the start. Other than the odd token remark here and there, they could not have done less if they tried, as evidenced by all the media releases they published. They passed on the opportunity to submit their $0.02 to the upcoming review and they also never made a submission when the chance was there two years ago. They did make a submission to the Nanny State Enquiry led by people’s champion / federal Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm, presumably because of the national focus. In Sydney though, their silence was highly conspicuous. Which makes it all the more bizarre that rabid fools on social media continue to believe they’re behind any opposition. I suppose is just emphasises their ignorance and how little they know about the topic. Regardless, the fact remains the AHA did not lift a finger or more importantly a phone in opposition to lockouts in Sydney.
It’s in stark contrast to their WA Branch, who has an entire website dedicated to their opposition to lockouts. But things are much different over in Western Australia. No, I’m not referring to everything being 10 years behind the east coast. I’m referring to the fact they don’t have poker machines. There is no forced love affair between the people and the machines. Beer prices are slightly higher, but nobody seems to mind, especially not the cashed up fifo workers. When I visited recently it was a pleasant surprise to see establishments thriving without having to cash in on misery.
The Western Australian government does not rely on poker machines for revenue. They’re only found at Burswood Casino (Crown, naturally) and are generally shunned by society. Most pub owners don’t even want a bar of them, preferring to only rely on food and beverage trade. Of course, there are exceptions – notably one pub group spokesperson who claims “they form part of a balanced offer”. It’s no shock at all to learn that that quote comes from biggest machine operator in the country and Macquarie revenue stream, ALH.
It’s little wonder the AHA is putting up a fight in the west. With opening hours cut, their members would have some real problems. In Sydney though, the majority of members are outside the precinct. But that’s not the reason they’ve steered clear. In all honesty, to say they steered clear of the fight isn’t entirely accurate. They ended up throwing their weight into the ring albeit briefly, and not for the reasons everyone would assume.
Recently a handful of venues inside the precinct were given exemptions from lock outs. These venues included AHA members * Charlie Chans, Great Southern, Coronation, Scruffy Murphys, Star Hotel, Albion Place, V Bar, Criterion (also a member of Ralph Kelly side business and AHA member & advertiser – pubrooms), Cheers Bar, Radisson Hotel and The Bourbon. However the exemptions came with a catch. The venues wouldn’t be able to offer entertainment of any kind, and the liquor service regulations would not be lifted. So you couldn’t drink and there wouldn’t be music or anything to keep you amused. Just pokies. That is all.
* Please note, membership information is quite difficult to locate online so some of the listed venues may no longer be members.
One can only assume that these venues took advantage of Liquor Amendment Act 2014 section 53ZA , which can enable exemptions to be granted provided venues meet a certain criteria and, of course, pay a reasonable fee. AHA NSW Director of Policing, John Green is on record saying assistance would be provided for members, so one can only assume fees were happily paid. Happily accepted as well no doubt. Sources have advised Surely Not that there was assistance given to applicants from those in a position of power, ensuring applications would be filled out correctly to best gain their exemption. It’s little wonder things are unravelling over at Liquor and Gaming NSW
I suppose I was exaggerating slightly before when I said the AHA had not lifted a finger. Quite clearly they had, but in doing so they weren’t doing the liquor industries bidding. Not at all, in fact. The industry body tasked with looking out for members had seemingly thrown what it represents under the bus. Selling out beers, food, live entertainment in the name of gaming. On the bright side, people weren’t being funnelled as far. On the down side, there’s still nothing to do other than play pokies in Sydney after 3am, or 1.30am if you’re really unlucky and miss lockout. Given the AHA has considerable clout, it may disappoint some to learn they used it in this way. It may even shock and surprise some. Thing is though, it should not surprise anyone at all.
*UPDATE* Two years, two months and 16 days after the laws were voted on and passed in parliament, the AHA has finally decided to chime in. This is a very welcome revelation and I applaud them for making a stand. Three days after this article was published John Green made the following remarks –
AHA NSW Director of Liquor and Policing John Green said the laws introduced in 2014 following the death of two teenagers in Kings Cross “unfairly penalise many safe, well-run venues with a proven track record of compliance”.
“The Liquor Act already has real teeth to deal with rogue operators,” Mr Green said. “The power to cancel or suspend a licence already exists, as does the power to disqualify any person from having an interest in the business.
“Imposing additional blanket measures on everyone, regardless of whether they are a good or bad operator, is poor policy.”
The AHA’s submission uses the inner-west suburb of Newtown as an example of how a 3am “no new patrons” policy can work.
It notes the Newtown Liquor Accord, comprised of local hotels, introduced the policy in mid-2015 along with drink restrictions after midnight.
It allows patrons who plan to arrive after 3am to book ahead – an aspect of the policy designed to prevent people being turned away at the door and left frustrated on the street.
The policy is “the sensible and pragmatic alternative to a lockout” the submission says.
“Existing patrons can leave to have a cigarette or obtain food whilst other persons can pre-plan their attendance and notify the premises, with that position in the venue held for their arrival.”
Hopefully it isn’t far too little and way too late. Admittedly, It’s hard to blame them for taking their time entering the fray. Any organisation would always act in the interests of their key stakeholders. It would foolish not to. Unfortunately for the bars, clubs and people of Sydney, many of the biggest backers of the AHA probably weren’t too upset about lockouts…
As you can see above, the AHA takes care of its best friends better than those not so close. Corporate partners are much better pals than members, no doubt. Around a third of the AHA’s partners happen to be gaming companies. Primarily poker machine companies. These companies are
This leaves little doubt as to who the AHA is really acting for. You can find the remainder of their partners here. The rest are a handful of liquor producers such as Lion alongside a number of organisations with industry interests including Fox Sports, Hostplus and APRA AMCOS. No sector has more representation than gaming, I would suggest the AHA has seemingly thrown their traditional members under the bus in favour of pokie dollars, but it’s not like it’s anything new. The obsession has been around for a awhile. Some of the quotes found in their submission the Federal Gaming Enquiry 1998 were particularly nauseating.
“Gambling and gaming has been an accepted part of the cultural history of the Australian way of life, with little social stigma attached. Rather, it has been seen much like the role sport plays in society.”
“While the AHA (NSW) concedes that on an individual basis there is a small number in the NSW population whose finances may be adversely affected, it believes that for the majority of the population there has been no adverse affect on their financial situation. While there is no hard figures available, given the above, it could be argued that overall, the majority of the population has benefited from gaming given the increases it has provided to the State and National Economies”
“Gambling is viewed as an important leisure activity by 32% of women and 37% of men”
“The groups commonly endorsed a positive theme describing their gambling as pleasurable, exciting, relaxing, a hobby and an interest.”
So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the AHA had no interest in fighting on behalf of venues that would inevitably be crippled by the laws. They simply weren’t paying enough protection money. Worse still, the Mr Green is even on record supporting lockouts. Given all this, it beggars belief that the ignorant lockout supporters still hold onto their “Big Alcohol” conspiracy theories. Their rhetoric has as much validity as claims the Moon landing was an elaborate hoax.
To top it all off, the man in charge of the AHA before taking a leaf out of Barry O’Farrell’s book was none other than Paul Nicolaou. Mr Nicolaou conveniently resigned from his post as head of the AHA in July 2014 just days before an ICAC corruption inquiry was due to resume and shall we say, spice up a bit. Quite the multi-tasker, Mr Nicolaou was also one of the chief Liberal party bagmen. As executive chairman of the Millennium Forum he was in charge of the parties main fundraising body.
Thankfully, the AHA is much better hands these and has added their powerful voice to the debate.
Key cohorts included Nick Di Girolamo of Australian Water Holdings infamy and man of the moment Arthur Sinodinos. Although I’m sure if anyone asked Mr Sinodinos he wouldn’t be able to recall. AWH, as we discussed in an earlier article, was of course the vehicle used for a number of very shady deals. Par for the course when the Obeid’s are involved. As reported by Sean Nicholls in 2014, Mr Nicolaou has no qualms about doing his buddies the occasional solid, hooking up a meeting between Di Girolamo and Brisbane lord major Campbell Newman launching a smear campaign against AWH rival Kerry Schott.
Mr Nicolaou has been in the news again recently, as information comes out regarding illegal donations to the NSW Liberals via slush fund The Free Enterprise Foundation. Surely Not has been looking into this for quite some time now, and was surprised when mainstream media broke the story. Partially because of the fact they actually broke it, but more so because of the figures being thrown about. Needless to say, it appears there is more to this scandal than meets the eye. Watch this space.
One really needs to ask what the hell was going here. The man primarily responsible for Liberal Party fundraising was also in charge of the powerful body that lobbied on behalf of the biggest gaming companies on the planet. In the state that housed more machines than almost anywhere else in the world no less. Unbelievably, Mr Nicolaou himself alludes to the fact he was appointed to his post within the AHA because he “knew who’s who in the zoo”! Conflict much?
Throw into the mix his extremely questionable associates and his involvement with their interests and it the whole situation borders on the absurd. Then there’s the small matter of alleged developer links, including a number in the hotels game, which we will be delving into deeper in an upcoming piece.
You really do have to ask what was going through the minds of Barry O’Farrell and co. Of course, I would never suggest anything dastardly myself, so I encourage readers to draw their own conclusions. Occam’s Razor may be useful for cutting through all the bullshit.
Faced with all this information, it’s easy to understand how Macquarie Street has been an absolute cesspool for so long. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. Anyone who believes the liquor industry has any clout in this city is seriously out of date and out of touch. Gambling rules now, and this city has become completely dependent. Make no mistake, I am not opposed to gambling. I am a fairly regular sports punter, at what many would consider a reasonable level. But there is a chasm between the pokies and things like sports, poker or racing. Pokies exist only to drain your wallet and your spirit and ultimately you will never win.
Our government has grown so utterly addicted to the revenue, issues linked to gambling such as domestic violence, family break up, bankruptcy, fraud, theft, money laundering, depression and suicide are all completely disregarded. When they do acknowledge the issues they are defending them, pointing to token donations and obligatory contributions to community levies to justify profiteering of misery and suffering. The fact our state has become so dependent on poker machine revenue is shameful. We’re well past the point of no return. Just like a heroin dealer and his clients, the government has become so dependent on the gaming dollar they now would not be able to function without it. With friends like these, who needs enemies?