Churches encouraged to help protect victims of problem gambling
“Lot of religious blokes coming through this morning,” observed the man in charge of the taxi rank at Canberra airport. “Is something going on?”
“Yeah,” answered Uniting Church President the Rev. Alistair Macrae as he clambered into a cab. “We’re here for the Australian Churches gambling task force.”
“That’s great! You’ve got my support.”
It was an auspicious start to the day.
Heads of Australian churches and their representatives joined together in Old Parliament House to discuss how they could work together to assist families affected by gambling.
The Rev. Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision, chaired the meeting and reminded the room that gambling had been an issue of concern for Christian leaders for a long time and was one of the issues that united the churches and allowed them to find a common ground.
The taskforce is putting together a kit for a grassroots campaign aimed at helping people in local congregations share their concerns with their local communities, including their local Federal MPs.
It is hoped the message will filter through to local communities through the unique networks of each of the churches represented on the taskforce.
The clubs have mounted a marginal seat campaign and the taskforce sees it as important that local politicians know there are two sides to every story and that it is the churches’ responsibility to make their voices heard in their own communities.
To that end, Mr Macrae shot a short video about the issue to let Uniting Church people know about the work that was being done in this area and the reforms the Uniting Church supports.
“With 90,000 problem gamblers losing an average of $21,000 each a year, gambling in Australia is a huge issue and more power needs to be given to the consumer so they can set their loss limits,” said Mr Costello.
“600,000 Australians play poker machines on a weekly basis and around 200,000 of this group are people who have a moderate or severe problem with gambling.
“Mandatory limits allow people, in a sober moment, to say, ‘I can’t afford another $300 this month.’
“We have limits on the amount we can safely drink and it’s illegal to serve alcohol to someone who is intoxicated. It’s mandatory to wear a seatbelt even though the catastrophic consequences of car accidents are rare considering the number of people who travel in a car every day.
“There are limits on where people can smoke in order to limit the impact of passive smoking.
“And so it should be that children, families, colleagues and whole communities should be protected from the devastating impact of someone’s addiction to poker machines,” said Rev. Costello.
The task group will continue to work together to support the Federal Government’s historic reforms, which will help protect children and families from the impact of problem gambling, to protect families from the worst effects of problem gambling.
“We’ll be keeping the church updated on our work and asking for their support over the coming months,” said Mr Macrae.
“I’m excited that Australian churches are speaking with one voice to our Federal politicians on this issue and hopeful about the change we can help bring about for families affected by problem gambling.”