The desegregation of gambling media and the emergence of a single form of gambling.

AuthorAustrin, Terry

Abstract

This paper compares the findings of government reviews of gambling in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. It focuses on the desegregation of gambling media, a process that makes possible one-stop gambling venues where different gambling media are combined in a single site. The authors argue that although this process makes large-scale casinos/gaming machine venues subject to state control in both countries, it is the way in which desegregation takes place outside of these gambling sites--with gaming machines and virtual gaming--that differs. It is these areas that are found to drive debate and ongoing attempts by the state to regulate and to secure both surveillance and revenue, as well as protection of the vulnerable (e.g. problem gamblers). The authors conclude that the technology of the networked random number generator has determined how gambling has affected society.

INTRODUCTION

The simultaneous publication of government reviews of gambling in the United Kingdom and New Zealand provides an opportunity to raise a number of issues concerning the similarities and differences in local developments in gambling. These issues turn on the disputed "normalisation" of gambling.

NORMALISATION

Normalisation is an argument that has accompanied and reinforced developments in gambling media involving the state promotion of lotteries, but more significantly the computerisation of gaming machines and the developments in Internet wagering and Internet gaming. It is clear that these developments in the diffusion of gambling--or, to put it another way, gambling as mass consumption--turn on greater abilities on the part of states to regulate and control this mobile good. Claims for normalisation and state control can therefore be said to reinforce one another, albeit in different ways in different countries. However, just as normalisation is subject to dispute, state control is never total.

It is recognised in both the United Kingdom and New Zealand that control focuses on developments in surveillance and the operation of state-sanctioned established operators of casino gaming and wagering. Such control necessitates blocking the more difficult areas of (1) community gambling in pubs and clubs operating gaming machines and (2) uncontrolled overseas suppliers who now mobilise the Internet (Sinclair 2001). Significantly, the British and New Zealand reviews differ most on how to handle these difficult areas, especially the suppliers of virtual gambling.

The New Zealand Gaming Review is presented as making gambling for (or returning it to) the community (Markland 2001):

The four key themes underpinning the Government's decisions are:

* Gambling will be primarily used to raise funds for the community.

* The harm caused by gambling will be minimised.

* There will be local involvement in decisions about the availability in communities of the more risky forms of gambling.

* There will be controls on the growth of gambling. (Department of Internal Affairs 2001: 1)

Most notably, the New Zealand review extends the monopolies of existing operators in the areas of casinos and wagering, and further limits community gambling (Curtis and Wilson 2001b). The new developments here are that the state-owned Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) is given explicit approval for gaming machines and Internet wagering, and the Lotteries Commission gains limited approval for Internet gaming. At the same time, community gambling through gaming machines in chartered clubs and those owned by non-commercial associations in pubs continues to be disciplined and disadvantaged vis-a-vis casinos and the TAB.

Over the last decade the combination of gaming machines with wagering (through agencies of the TAB) in clubs and pubs in New Zealand has resulted in them becoming entertainment complexes or suburban casinos (Austrin 1998). The disciplining of these suburban casinos involves:

* the continued limitation of prizes and marketing

* a reduction in the number of gaming machines allowed on new sites (from 18 to 9)

* the introduction of a community veto in the siting of gaming machines (which will also apply to new TABs)

* the establishment of new surveillance regimes over the gaming machine operations in clubs and pubs similar to that of the otherwise unrestricted casinos.

By contrast, the British Gambling Review Report recommendations:

... are designed:

* to simplify the regulation of gambling

* to...

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