he State Government was forced into an embarrassing backflip over its controversial plan to allow Crown the extra gaming tables without any review of the impact on problem gamblers or taxpayers.
Gaming Minister Tony Robinson said the report from the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation was just an expansion of its earlier advice that supported the deal to boost Crown's facilities to 500 poker and gaming tables and was a political ploy to make sure the necessary legislation was passed in the Upper House.
But the Opposition is adamant the VCGR's report must not be a whitewash, especially because of the growing concerns about a direct link between table games such as poker and problem gambling. "The VCGR has already given us advice (in May) to say they are satisfied this is an appropriate arrangement so I would be surprised if the more detailed work from the VCGR says something different," Robinson said.
"The purpose of this exercise is that we introduced measures into Parliament and it has been made apparent to us that parties don't wish to consider the Bill until more information is made available, and that is what the VCGR is in the process of doing."
But VCGR executive commissioner Peter Cohen claims the commission will not be bullied into silence. "We will do a report that forms our own view. If we think this deal is of negative consequence we will say so," Cohen said.
Charles Livingstone, the deputy head of Monash University's health and social science department, also warns that while gaming tables are not as problematic for gambling addicts as poker machines, they still generate problem gambling.
The VCGR report is expected to be given to the minister early next month. Treasury forecasts the state's coffers will receive an extra $ 132 million from the deal. The deadline for public submission is September 25.