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Are we really happy about building a $3.6b altar to an industry we don't trust?


When you sit at South Bank and gaze across the brown snake to Queen’s Wharf it’s hard not to be impressed.

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It’s a massive construction and engineering achievement. Clever design, too, with the Neville Bonner bridge delivering people from South Bank like an intravenous line into the belly of gambling.

Without doubt, there will be massive benefits from the project such as entertainment in a dead part of the city, jobs and tourism. Already, the city has received some significant international publicity because of the Queen’s Wharf project.

But the community already has deep concerns about gambling and after the shine comes off the new development surely the state and the Commonwealth has to rein in gambling.

If you landed in the country today and someone told you that in Brisbane, we have handed over residency in the city to a $3.6 billion altar to gambling run by a company the Government last year found was not fit to run a casino, you would think the state was crazy.

While casino owner Star Entertainment has presumably cleaned itself up, there are still big questions over its joint venture partners in the Destination Brisbane joint venture that owns the Queen’s Wharf project.

Setting that aside, the Australian community also appears to have reacted against the massive growth and reach of the gambling industry. Those concerns are held by a nation that is very clearly in the grip of gambling. About 73 per cent of us had a flutter at least once in the past year, but a lot of that was scratchies and lottery tickets.

While we willingly throw money at the corporations who own the gambling licences, more than three quarters of people in a survey done by the Federal Government’s Australian Institute of Family Studies were concerned that there is too much gambling.

Slightly fewer thought gambling was dangerous for family life and more than half said it should be discouraged.

That isn’t happening and it would seem politicians are not listening to their concerns.

It is easy to see why. The State Government will earn $2 billion in revenue this financial year from gambling taxes, slightly less than its receipts from motor vehicle registration so it has a stake in the game that makes it a conflicted party.

There was more than $5 billion lost by gamblers in Queensland last financial year. Nationally it’s about $25 billion.

Australia-wide almost $6 billion was collected by all governments in 2019-20. In the same year, $44 million was distributed to 2000 community groups in Queensland which gives the industry some credible support.

You can’t dismiss concerns as wowserism, either. Gambling is a huge social problem, but it’s not as visible as others. It’s often a deep personal tragedy that affects families as much as the individual.

Some studies have found the divorce rate is higher in families where a gambling problem exists and a federal parliamentary inquiry also found that online gambling alone was “wreaking havoc’ in communities across Australia.

Research from the Australian National University found that almost 200,000 Australian children were exposed to moderate or serious levels of risky gambling by a parent each year.

The Australian Gambling Research Centre research found that exposure to gambling advertising prompted half of those at risk of harm to increase their betting.

There is some seriously frightening research about the impacts of gambling and now it is a force to be reckoned with on-line.

Queensland University of Technology’s Professor Ross Gordon said sports betting, a huge growth area for the industry, was normalising gambling.

He said while sport could be addictive, adding gambling, smartphones and apps _ all of which were designed to be addictive _ has created a powder keg.

He wants stronger policy that regulates the gambling environment and restricts marketing, and for behaviour change programs that de-normalises sports betting in everyday life.

Former Premier the late Wayne Goss said one of his biggest regrets from his term in office was allowing pokies into the state and thought they became a scourge. He was right. We will rue the day we handed over a key part of the city to gambling.


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