I have long been a fan of the Australian system of utilising the benefits from gaming machines.

David Snook

They have operators, of course, running pay-out machines in pubs in most of the country’s states. But the bulk of the business is in their clubs and it is these that I think represent the best-possible and most industry-secure method of using machines.

It started with returning service personnel, soldiers, sailors and airmen who set up members’ clubs in towns and cities. They put in a couple of machines (pokies or poker machines, they call them in Australia, because of their card symbols) and they thrived.

Now there are clubs all over the country, for all kinds of reasons, not just ex-servicemen, but sports clubs, yacht clubs, workers’ clubs, even just social clubs. They are huge, ornate, superbly equipped and run on a strictly non-profit basis. All of the profits from the range of slots or pokies on-site go straight back into the club and its activities.

Those activities might be anything that supports the local community. I visited one a couple of years ago to find a children’s choir in rehearsal.

The beauty of this system is that while the pokies may be seen to be encouraging gambling, all of the proceeds of the gambling go back into providing benefits for the members - superb food, subsidised beer, entertainment, social meeting places for local groups. It is therefore beyond criticism - no politician is going to mess with something that benefits all of his constituents.

That’s why the Aussie system is, in my view, best. The manufacturers thrive, the operators still get a look-in because they can maintain the equipment (and can still operate in pubs), and the players can gamble and eat well off the proceeds, and the politicians daren’t even look askance at the entire process.

As they say, “Good on ‘yer, mate.”

And as this will probably be my last offering before the festive season, then in the Language of Heaven, Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.