Editorial Pages

August 2002

Smartgambler quoted out of context on 'A Current Affair'.

The shoddy standard of journalism prevailing at Channel 9's 'A Current Affair' was revealed in their interview with OZmium Pty Ltd Managing Director Guy West, which aired on Wednesday 7th August 2002 at 6.30 pm.

Channel 9 first rang West and asked to interview him for a special on poker machines after finding that most search engine queries with the words 'poker machines' or 'gambling' and 'Australia' led to the OZmium owned site Smartgambler. Since OZmium Pty Ltd is on public record via that site as being opposed to poker machines, West agreed to appear on television and put the company's position. As there is no payment for such an appearance, ACA agreed to mention the website address in the interview.

ACA duly arrived at West's home and shot nearly ten minutes of interview, during which he consistently reiterated OZmium's advice not to play poker machines and the company's opposition to them. He explained at length that any attempt to turn the odds in the player's favour by various methods was akin to 'rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic'.

Pressed strongly at one stage on what people who chose to play despite this advice could do, West said that they could perhaps look for venues that gave added value through free drinks, subsidised meals, etc.

West's first comment when asked what he thought about poker machines was, verbatim, 'The position of my company, OZmium Pty Ltd on poker machines is quite clear. We don't like them.' He went on to say that OZmium agreed with the Reverend Tim Costello and his taskforce that they caused social dislocation and that from a mathematical perspective they were also terrible because of the low payout percentage of around 85%.

When the segment went to air ACA started the West interview by giving the wrong website address, one which leads to an error message.

They had also edited the footage down to just a small bit about rule one being to 'not play', followed by the comment about those who still insisted on playing looking for 'value added' by way of free drinks and subsidised food. In a masterful piece of contextual manipulation they then cut straight to the Reverend Tim Costello saying vehemently that that was the worst possible advice because freebies just encouraged people to stay and play. It was made to look as if he was on a different side to OZmium in the debate!

They say that any publicity is good publicity and perhaps so, but this was really a classic example of manipulative journalism and a poor reflection on the program and its editors.

The saddest thing is that with an opportunity to expose the insidiousness of poker machines to a national audience, this supposedly hard hitting 'watchdog' program made it seem as if the jury was still out on whether poker machines can be beaten, by lending credence to various mug punters and their superstitious theories and yet editing out the vast bulk of sensible, mathematically based criticism.


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