Gambling Stakeholders Gave $60m to Australian Politicians

An ABC News investigation into political payments between 1998-99 and 2019-20 in Australia revealed gambling-related entities made over AU$80 million ($59.2 million) in political contributions.

The Investigation

The media’s investigation, based on data from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) Transparency Register, where financial dealings of political parties, candidates and others who participate in the federal electoral process are disclosed annually, found out AU$81.77 million ($60.51 million) attributed to stakeholders in the gambling industry.

Unlike previous similar analyses that consider businesses by focusing on their primary interest or the largest gambling-related groups, this media investigation included interests beyond casinos and gaming, considering hotels and pubs, banking, entertainment, sport, supermarket retailers, media and property, Australian Labor Party-owned gambling machines and individuals with an interest in gambling.

Having collated all datasets into a single solution, the investigation identified more than 370 entities and then cross-checked all federally disclosed payments by donors connected to these entities, including returns lodged by the most generous of the donors.

Data analysis revealed politics and gambling are deeply intertwined in Australia, the world leader in gambling per capita and the country with 76% of poker machines located outside of gambling-only venues. And while there is no reason in general why a political donation is made, the gambling industry is entirely dependent on regulation and profoundly invested in its rule-makers, the politicians.

In 2018-19 alone, Australian residents lost AU$25 billion ($18.5 billion) and half of this money was attributed to venues hosting pokies, which, unlike typical betting shops in the UK, do not feature four machines, but hundreds of electronic gaming machines (EGMs) in some of the establishments.

Summary of Payments

During the period, gambling businesses made AU$14.46 million ($10.7 million) in political contributions. Tabcorp, Crown and The Star led with AU$3.95 million ($2.92 million), AU$3.25 million ($2.41 million) and AU$1.77 million ($1.31 million), respectively, but the industry was dwarfed by hotels, pubs and clubs, which gave AU$35.95 million ($26.6 million) in political contributions.

The hospitality workers union representing casino, hotel, pub and club workers, United Voice, gave AU$6.78 million ($5.02 million) in political payments, while the amount of the contributions made by individuals was more than AU$4.79 million ($3.54 million), with mother of billionaire casino mogul James Packer, Roslyn Packer, donating AU$1.34 million ($1 million) alone. Property development entities gave more than AU$815,000 ($603,000), while sports organizations contributed with AU$685,700 ($507,400).

Considering that the analysis excluded payments amounting to more than AU$615 million ($455 million), as there was no clarity how much of this money went into the political system. There is also more to the story, as, for more than 20 years, around 35% of private funding to political parties, about AUD$1B ($741,000), has remained hidden from public scrutiny, according to data provided by the Centre for Public Integrity.

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