Churches solid on poker machine reform

Churches solid on poker machine reform

The major Christian churches in Australia reaffirmed their commitment to the Government’s proposed poker machine reform in the face of Catholic priest Father Chris Riley’s apparent support for the inaccurate, well-funded industry campaign.

The Rev. Bill Crews, Chair of the NSW Churches Gambling Taskforce, said he believed Father Riley had been misled on the issue of poker machine reform.

Mr Crews said that while counselling was an important part of helping people overcome their addiction to poker machines, preventing the problem in the first place was essential public policy.

“The major churches provide around 70 per cent of all social services in Australia.

“Every day our agencies see people whose lives have been damaged by poker machine addiction: individuals, families and whole communities. And it’s not just our gambling services that are picking up the pieces. It’s our financial counsellors, family counselling services, mental health services and others.

“Fr Riley’s comment is at odds with the Catholic Church which is a member of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce.

“The clubs have capitalised on a conflict of interest here. Those who receive funding from the industry to run their services are caught between a rock and a hard place. They are committed to providing support to people already living with a poker machine addiction but do not want to jeopardise their funding.

“Under the reforms, all players will have to decide ahead of time how much they are willing to lose. This can be as high or as low as the individual chooses.

“In the cold light of day, away from the ‘zone’, problem gamblers are telling us they are able to make sensible decisions. Mandatory pre-commitment will, as part of a whole range of measures, help poker machine addicts who are ready to help themselves.

“More importantly it will help people who are at risk, from developing a problem. And that’s good public policy.”

Mr Crews said, “Many clubs provide benefits to their local communities. But 40 per cent of profits come from people addicted to poker machines. Those clubs that can only provide this support on the back of someone’s gambling addiction need to rethink their business model.”

Members of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce include the heads of Christian churches in Australia and the heads of their social services agencies nationally. Established earlier this year the Taskforce is united by a commitment to reduce the harms caused by poker machine gambling.

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