Eddie McGuire's Tax

If the clubs can't survive without gambling, do they deserve to exist?

Eddie McGuire infamously characterised as a tax, attempts to mitigate the harm done by poker machines. That ludicrously mendacious comment conveniently introduces to the debate a two-edged sword. Can the source of the harm in question be regarded as taxation?

Poker machine venues (in Eddie's case, AFL football clubs) derive income from their machines. Notwithstanding loud protestations of community benefit[1], that revenue is used primarily to benefit the clubs themselves. In that light, poker machines can legitimately be seen as collecting tax for the clubs. I've come to think of this as Eddie's Tax.

The payers of that tax are gamblers. According to the Productivity Commission, more than 40% of the tax is paid by problem gamblers. As Tim Costello said: "These are people who, by definition, have no freedom to choose because they are hooked". Eddie's Tax exploits vulnerable people.

There has been much gnashing of teeth about the impact of the government's mandatory pre-commitment proposals. It has been asserted that clubs will close and jobs will be destroyed. Let's assume it's so.

If a club cannot survive without exploiting the vulnerable, does it have any place in a decent society? If, without exploiting the vulnerable, a club will cease to exist, should we tolerate its continued existence?

[1]According to GetUp, "most clubs receive more in tax breaks, and spend more on advertising than they give back to their local communities".

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