Don’t be bullied on pokies

Don’t be bullied on pokies

The Rev. Tim Costello, Chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce has called on Federal politicians in marginal seats to stand their ground in the face of a marginal seat campaign being launched by the poker machine industry this weekend.

Mr Costello said the industry was in panic mode and is using a misleading, manipulative campaign to protect the huge profits made from the misery of people addicted to poker machine gambling.

“We know Australian communities support measures to curb the devastating impact of problem gambling.

“And so we’re calling on local members to stare down the industry and support the Federal Government’s mandatory pre-commitment measures.

“This is a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get one solid measure in place that will help problem gamblers help themselves.

“Mandatory pre-commitment limits can be as high or as low as the player chooses. In a sober moment, in the cold light of day, players get to decide how much they are prepared to lose. Once ‘in the zone’ problem gamblers say they are incapable of making safe choices.

“In no other industry would consumers be exposed to such a dangerous product without reasonable protection.

“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.

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

“Gamblers can lose up to $1,500 an hour on high intensity poker machines. And problem gamblers average losses of around $21,000 a year. Twelve billion dollars a year is spent on poker machines, but the small group of severe problem gamblers account for $2.6 billion of gaming machine losses.

“That’s all money that would otherwise be spent in local businesses on groceries, clothes, entertainment, holidays and other regular family expenses. Healthy local businesses are major employers in regional Australia, but they’re in competition with poker machines for limited local dollars.

“The Productivity Commission says 40 per cent of clubs’ profits come for people’s addiction to poker machines. This is not a sustainable business model.

“Since most people don’t use them, most people don’t know how dangerous poker machines can be. This is a product that must have better consumer protections in place.”

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 make poker machine gambling safer.

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