Andrew Wilkie Once Again Confronts the Australian Gambling Industry for Making Massive Donations to Local Political Parties

According to some gambling industry sources, the Independent Member of Parliament Andrew Wilkie had turned from a soldier to spy over the years. He had monitored the Australian gambling sector in his sights for more than a decade now, but the industry had also observed him.

Mr Wilkie first entered his direct confrontation with the Australian Government in 2003 at the time when he raised a red flag in the flawed intelligence case for the Iraq War. Although he has not been new to such confrontations, he admitted that he was not ready for what followed after he took on the gambling sector in 2010 because he had simply underestimated the power of the poker machine lobby.

The anti-gambling activist has revealed that a protection racket is currently being run over the gambling industry by the major political parties in Australia.

At the time when he secured the then-Primer Minister’s support for stricter measures to be implemented on the country’s power machines, the gambling lobby, headed by ClubsNSW and the Australian Hotels Association (AHA), said it was against such a move. Only in two years, then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a u-turn on her deal with Andrew Wilkie and made a move for a weaker set of reforms. Then, in 2013, even the smallest changes made to the regulation of the sector were slashed by the Coalition Government.

Political Donations from the Gambling Sector Still Not Illegal in Australia

Wilkie is now blaming politicians for providing their support for the gambling sector in Australia.

As Casino Guardian previously reported, it is not illegal for gambling companies to make donations to political parties or finance the campaign of a local politician. The money transactions, however, need to be made and reported in line with the donation laws in Australia. Unfortunately, experts believe that the federal disclosure laws of Australia are currently some of the weakest ones on a global scale.

According to reports, gambling operators have been among the largest political contributors between 1998-1999 and 2019/2020. The larger dataset of disclosures showed that more than 370 gambling-related contributors made political donations worth over AU$80 million over a 22-year period. The aforementioned data is based on the yearly disclosures made to the Transparency Register of the Australian Electoral Commission – a public database of the financial dealings of everyone involved in the federal electoral process, including political parties, donators, etc.

The disclosed payments, however, are only part of all the payments that could be traced to gambling-related contributors to Australian political parties. Although, they include some extremely important details that are not available in the disclosures that contribution recipients make.

It was revealed that, in the past 22 years, a combined amount of AU$40 million in direct expenditure or political donations was disclosed by hundreds of donors related to the gambling industry. The overall average contribution per donor over the same period was worth AU$203,822, with each of the four largest contributors disclosing donations estimated at over AU$3 million.

AHA, ClubsNSW, Crown Resorts and Tabcorp Are Currently the 4 Largest Political Donators in Australia

According to Anthony Whealy, a former Court of Appeals judge and now-chair of the Centre for Public Integrity, large donations are the centrepiece of a tremendous lobbying exercise that has helped the Australian gambling industry become more powerful.

By far, the state and national branches of the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) has been the biggest contributor to political parties in the country, with payments of no less than AU$10.67 million for a period of 22 years.

Currently, the AHA represents over 5,000 pubs and hotels in Australia.

The Association has not avoided favouring one side of politics over the other, no matter if it comes to state or federal elections, especially when the political attention falls on its gambling interests.

ClubsNSW and its branches, which are known as Clubs Australia, are the second-largest gambling-related donor of local political parties. Over 22 years, they contributed an overall of AU$5.38 million.

In the state of New South Wales alone, clubs operate over 65,000 electronic gaming machines (EGMs) that generate net profits of approximately AU$4.26 billion a year. Their affluence seems to have been enough to rank among the most persuasive operators to local politicians over the years.

Before 2010, ClubsNSW used to make equal donations to the state’s Coalition and Labor branches but over the last 11 years, it has been donating a much more generous amount to the Coalition rather than to the Labor party. Three memoranda of understanding have been signed between ClubsNSW and the NSW Coalition.

The third-biggest donor group of the gambling industry is represented by Crown Resorts and individuals associated with the Australian gambling giant. The group’s donations to political parties increased over time, from a little less than AU$3.8 million to AU$4.4 million in a 22-year period, with a significant increase in the contributions starting from 2010 onwards.

Over the years, there were multiple reports about the strong political connections of Crown Resorts and the authorities’ favour it has enjoyed so far. The embattled gambling giant still holds a monopoly on the casino markets in the states of Victoria and Western Australia. In Western Australia, its casino is the only venue that has a licence to offer electronic gaming terminals.

The James Packer-related casino giant has been a keen donor in the state where it has operating casino licences. Throughout the years, it has had a slight preference to the Coalition parties over the Labor party, with donations of AU$1.11 million and AU$888,973, respectively.

Tabcorp Holdings Limited has been the fourth-largest political donor over the 22-year period, with donations worth AU$3.02 million. The political contributions policy of the company adopts a bi-partisan approach, with Tabcorp having been a frequent contributor to campaigns of both the Coalition and the Labour party. In the 22 years, the company donated AU$1.55 million to Coalition parties and a further AU$1.39 million to the Labor party.

There were two times when Tabcorp Holdings considerably shifted its bi-partisan policy – once in 1998/1999 and again in 2007/2008. In 1998 and 1999, it made an AU$130,000 donation to the governing Liberal Party, and a much smaller contribution of AU$25,000 to the opposition Labor Party. Its largest recorded political donations were made in the period from 2007 to 2009 when the amount donated by the gambling company to the NSW Labor Party was almost 5 times bigger than the one granted to the NSW Coalition.

  • Author

Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.
Daniel Williams
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