Dollar bets are the next step in the slow walk to pokies reform

Dollar bets are the next step in the slow walk to pokies reform

Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce chair, the Rev. Tim Costello, said on February 22 that $1 maximum bets on poker machines were the next logical step in efforts to curb problem gambling in Australia.

Speaking shortly after hearings for the Joint Select Committee’s inquiry into the Poker Machine Harm Reduction ($1 Bets and Other Measures) Bill 2012, Mr Costello said limiting bets to $1 will, as part of a raft of measures, help gamblers to limit the damage caused by poker machine addiction.

“Forty per cent of revenue from poker machines comes from people hooked on pokies,” he said.

“Australians spend $12 billion a year on the machines. Only 600,000 Australians play poker machines at least weekly, and of those 95,000 are problem gamblers who lose on average up to $21,000 a year.

“Some lose a lot more. Another 95,000 are at risk of becoming problem gamblers. So pokies are a problem for around a third of regular players.

“Pokies addiction is a real problem that impacts the lives of too many Australians, and it will be with us for a long time yet, despite the emergence of other gambling options.

“The social costs are high, including relationship breakdown, mental health issues, unemployment, debt, financial hardship, theft and other crime, social isolation and all too often suicide, at a cost of around $4.7 billion annually.

“Money spent on the pokies is money taken from too many local economies. The ripple effects cause job losses and community breakdown.

“The major churches provide around 70 per cent of social services in Australia. We know from our networks that a large number of people who seek financial counselling are living with poker machine addiction.

“As a nation, we have an imperative to help consumers act in their own interests. Putting in place preventive measures such as $1 maximum bets will help do just that.

“The Taskforce has consistently sought reform of the poker machine industry in Australia, supporting the Productivity Commission’s calls for:

  • the adoption of a national mandatory pre commitment scheme that requires gamblers in all electronic gaming venues to set spending limits on high loss poker machines
  • $1 maximum bets on all machines limiting losses to $120 an hour
  • reduced access to cash in gambling venues as a measure to reduce the opportunity for unplanned expenditure on gambling

“We welcome the historic passage of national legislation last year that means all poker machines will be fitted with the technology that will allow gamblers to pre-set their limits. We remain committed to the full suite of reforms outlined above, but reiterate that that mandatory pre commitment legislation alone should not be regarded as a substitute for further reform.”

Mr Costello said, “Dollar maximum bets will not impact on recreational gamblers but will help vulnerable people to limit their losses on the pokies.”

Members of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce include the heads of Australian Christian Churches and the heads of their social services agencies nationally, united by a commitment to limit the harm caused by poker machines.

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