“Deep concern” as poker machines are switched on

“Deep concern” as poker machines are switched on

The NSW Council for Social Service (NCOSS), Wesley Mission, and the Alliance for Gambling Reform have issued a joint statement expressing “deep concern” for a gambling harm after NSW gambling rooms reopened last week.

NSW has reopened club and pub poker machines, while every other state has them shut off for at least another month due to COVID-19.

NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty said poker machines did their worst damage in vulnerable communities around NSW, causing sometimes irreparable harm to families and individuals.

“NCOSS remains extremely concerned about the harmful impact this form of gambling causes to individuals and the broader community, especially at such a vulnerable time,” she said.

“This decision to reopen poker machines is not a solution to addressing concerns around social isolation, it is a recipe for disaster and our members will no doubt be left to pick up the pieces.”

Wesley Mission’s Rev. Keith Garner, said his organisation was bracing for a wave of requests for its gambling counselling services in Sydney, Wollongong, Central Coast and Newcastle.

“In Western Sydney alone around $450 million has been saved since poker machines were switched off on 23 March,” he said.

“That’s a tremendous amount of money that will have been used to pay utility bills, rent and mortgages, and for other essentials, and supporting local businesses.”

Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, Rev. Tim Costello, said he was horrified poker machines were allowed to reopen without consideration for the reforms needed to reduce their harm.

“The NSW Government did a great job of minimising the health impacts of COVID-19 by wisely listening to public health experts. It’s time they did the same with gambling harm,” he said.

If Gambling is a problem for you, help is available. Call the Gambling Helpline (1800 858 858 – any time 24 hours). They can talk to you confidentially and provide information and self-help tools.

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