Gambling with Public Policy: Public Policy Making in Victoria, 1991 – 2002

2017-04-04T01:08:49Z (GMT) by Andrew Manning
This study is about understanding how public policy is made. This is done through the lens of the political economy of gambling in the State of Victoria, Australia. The study critically evaluates a body of information relating to the introduction of poker machines in licensed clubs and hotels throughout Victoria between 1991 and 2002. Poker machines were introduced in Victoria in 1991. By 2002 gamblers were losing over $2.33 billion annually on poker machines. The gambling industry and the State Government of Victoria receive significant dividends from the poker machine largesse. Poker machine taxes contribute over ten per cent of state budget income. Making money from poker machines was vigorously pursued by government and industry. As losses from gamblers reached new heights year upon year, civil society and apolitical interests pondered how to confront the rise in problem gambling by influencing changes to gambling policy.
   
   A number of key government policy decisions were made between 1991 and 2002. This research seeks to understand how those decisions came into being. The social and political sciences provide the theoretical framework with which to assess the impact of elites and stakeholders on decisions. Drawing on publicly available data, including ABS statistics, available club data, and media reports, the study seeks to understand public policy making and the range of theorising that this has generated. The publicly available evidence on poker machines is examined so as to identity processes and gaps in policy theory in relation to policy making.
   
   This study demonstrates policy making operates simultaneously on two levels. One is the illusion of policy making promoted by dominant elites; the other is the reality of how meaningful public policy is made. Both realms involve engagement in conversations, interactions and decision making. This study draws attention to a third layer of engagement that is generally hidden from formal public view, scrutiny or accountability. The challenge for stakeholders who participate in the policy process is to know which environment they are engaging in at any given time, what objectives are likely to dominate debate and as a consequence, how those deemed as less powerful stakeholders could influence the formation of dominant stakeholder policy objectives. The research findings contribute to developing recommendations for strengthening theoretical approaches to understanding how public policy is made.