The thuggish ClubsNSW, poker machine promoter extraordinaire and champion of NSW clubs’ billion dollar pokies income, is given to whining about media coverage of the predatory clubs pokies culture. Yet this publication is yet to hear “boo”.

Despite a retinue of investigations into the rapacious poker machine business of registered clubs, and various invitations to defend their position, ClubsNSW remains mute. They threatened independent MP Andrew Wilkie with a defamation suit and routinely complain to media organisations about perceived negative media coverage of clubs and the pokies industry.

It appears however that, when there is no hierarchy to complain to, to tie a media organisation up in paperwork and deter further coverage, the strategy is to just ignore it.

Pokie Profits Investigation: clubs put executive pay, the state and empire building before community service

The latest time-consuming whinge by ClubsNSW concerned stories by journalist Nick O’Malley in the SMH, “Pokie numbers are set to rise under new laws” in print and “Law changes could see pokie machine numbers rise in vulnerable areas” online.

Following a complaint to the Press Council by ClubsNSW earlier this year, the Press Council returned its verdict that the stories were neither inaccurate, unfair or misleading/

“The Council considers that, as the proposed changes allow clubs the option of leasing machines to other clubs without the previous forfeiture requirements, it is less likely that a reduction in machine numbers will take place by forfeiture of machines upon sale,” said the decision.

“The Council considers it is possible there will be more machines as a result of the proposed changes than would otherwise have been the case. The Council concludes the article was not inaccurate or misleading or unfair and unbalanced in this respect.”

ClubsNSW had also dropped court action against independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie over comments he made about the pokie machine industry.

“The industry body lodged a defamation case against Mr Wilkie and the ABC, after it aired a report on the gambling industry,” according to an ABC story.

“The story included former Labor minister Peter Garrett making a claim that he was given an envelope of cash by ClubsNSW while in office, which he immediately returned.”

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There are a number of messages to be gained from the combative behaviour of lobby groups such as ClubsNSW. One, they are designed to scare the media away from covering issues of high public interest. Two, as a deterrent, it works, leading to caution and potential self-censorship by media not wishing to be threatened or tied up in red tape. Three, its strategy to combat adverse coverage in independent media is to not respond. Four, money talks.

It is common knowledge that the profusion of poker machines causes social distress; it causes suicide, theft to fund addictive habit and family breakdowns. The cost of cleaning up after this predatory industry is high. Yet politicians are virtually powerless.

According to a story in The Conversation  a search of the Australian Electoral Commission political donor records reveals that “between July 1999 and June 2015, ClubsNSW declared political donations worth $2,569,181. Almost all of this money went to either the ALP ($886,505) or the Coalition parties ($1,682,676).

“Other funds went to entities linked to the parties, including a $29,600 donation to the Liberal Party-linked Millennium Forum in 2012-13. This was just before the body was drawn to the public’s attention in unhappy circumstances before NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption.

“For its campaign against the Wilkie-Gillard reforms, ClubsNSW allied with casinos, the Australian Hotels Association, and major players such as the Woolworths subsidiary, pokie operators ALH Ltd. It declared additional expenditure of $3,478,581 for this during 2010-11 and 2011-12. Of that, $2,989,600 was for broadcasting expenses.”

ClubsNSW has also declined to respond to questions about why it pays almost no tax despite operating the Keno commercial business.

Dee Why RSL: pokies, prodigious profits and personal tragedy was funded by the Alliance for Gambling Reform to conduct investigations into NSW Clubs and poker machines. Search fees were reimbursed. No other fee was taken by this website. The fee covered analysis by an external independent expert.

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