Australia commissions gambling study
By Paul
The Victoria state (Australia) government's gambling research panel is to commission four major studies into gambling.

The first study will compare how much Victorian households spend on gambling with households in Western Australia, where there are no poker machines outside Perth's Burswood Casino.

Panel chairwoman Linda Hancock said the research is to determine the effect of Victoria's 30,000 poker machines on local communities.

'Western Australia is seen as a pristine state,' Professor Hancock said.

'In Victoria, the areas we want to look at are on a gradient of gambling intensity. They will be suburbs around the city, as well as regional and rural areas.”

Victorians lost $2.56 billion (US$1.46 billion) on poker machines last financial year – over $7 million (US$4.1million) per day, excluding the amount lost at Crown Casino's 2500 machines.

The Victorian Government relies more on gaming taxes than any other state government, with money from gambling making up 15.7% of all revenue, according to last year's state budget.

By 2006, revenue from gambling will make up 18.4% of all money collected by the state, according to the budget forecasts.

By contrast, Western Australia has consistently had the country's lowest level of gambling losses per adult. Gaming taxes contribute only about 6% of government revenue.

Another of the panel's studies would investigate the efficacy of the government's problem gambling measures, including the smoking ban in gaming venues, as well as the introduction of clocks and lights in poker machine areas. Venue operators have complained of a fall in revenue since the smoking bans were introduced in September last year.

The panel will also conduct a community attitudes survey on gambling issues.

The panel has also commissioned research into recent changes in the Victorian racing industry, including the impact of the closure of more than 100 suburban TABs.

Professor Hancock, the director of Deakin University's Public Policy Program, said the panel also wanted some research conducted on the racing industry's attempts to attract younger punters.

The fourth study will be on the electronic gaming machine industry, including the changes in software technology since poker machines were introduced in Victoria in 1992.

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