Five simple steps to reduce gambling harm
The Alliance for Gambling Reform is urging Australians to boost their awareness of the dangers of gambling. The Alliance’s chief advocate, Rev. Tim Costello AO, has combined forces with Wesley Mission CEO, Rev. Keith Garner, and the Moderator, Rev. Simon Hansford, to take action to reduce the harm caused by gambling with a campaign for a reduction in opening hours for gaming rooms.
Step 1. Learn about the issue
Australia has the greatest per capita gambling losses in the world. The statistics are staggering. Around $24 billion is lost each year, $12.5 billion attributed to poker machines.
In NSW, over $18.7 million is lost on poker machines each day. The state is home to 30 percent of the world’s pub and club poker machines, but reform has been slow.
The Moderator, Rev. Simon Hansford, said the Church has always had a real concern about gambling. “This is an ongoing crisis for our community,” The Moderator said. “We know that seeking systemic change to reduce the power and social license of the gambling industry is critical. COVID 19 has made this even more pronounced, as people are more isolated, and the opportunity has increased to spend more time gambling in clubs and online. We need to approach this in terms of counselling and support for all those who are harmed, but also to address the structural concerns of how gambling is able to take such a hold on people’s lives.”
“At the moment in NSW $7,500 can be pre-loaded into a poker machine and you can bet up to $10 on a single push of the button. It’s not hard to imagine what damage that might do to an individual and their family and what impact that has on the community. If we can work together to slow the spending – and the catastrophic losses – down, it stands to reason that we can reduce the damage done,” Rev. Hansford said.
Many Australians might not know the full scale of the issue and its devastating consequences. Gambling can lead to a spectrum of harm, from anxiety and financial stress, to mental ill-health and links with poverty, family breakdown, homelessness and potential self-harm.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform has joined Wesley Mission and the Synod of NSW and ACT to focus on reduction of harm caused by gambling. As a first step, the campaign is asking for a reduction of opening hours of gaming rooms in NSW. Currently, poker machine rooms can be open for 18 hours a day, 10am to 4am, which correlates to $1 million in losses per hour in NSW. The campaign will ask for a reduction of four hours to close gaming rooms by midnight.
Step 2. Pray
“This is an illness which ensnares many of us, including our friends and families”, The Moderator said.
“As with other addictions, the costs are measured in broken lives and families, lost jobs and poverty. As followers of Jesus, we believe in forgiveness, we believe in healing, we are a people of the resurrection. Please pray for those whose lives are being punished and destroyed. Pray too, for justice in our community – that politicians and communities would no longer tolerate the societal disease brought about by unfettered gambling. Pray for the courage to act.”
Step 3. Raise your voice
The role of Congregations is vital. An important part of the campaign is contact with local MPs to encourage them to take action. A letter is available on the dedicated campaign area of the Alliance for Gambling Reform website for members of Congregations and other concerned people to send to their local MP. You can use the automated letter to send directly to your local MP, or you can write your own letter or call.
The letter encourages local MPs to take action to reduce the impact of gambling harm by closing gambling rooms between 12am and 10am. This still leaves rooms open for 14 hours a day, seven days a week. The letter also asks MPs to provide the data on how much is lost in the electorate between the hours of 12am-4am over the last month.
If an MP does not provide information available through NSW Liquor and Gaming, advocates can refer them to the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
Finally, it’s important to encourage others to raise their voice and join the campaign.
Step 4. Refer to local support options
The Moderator said that the congregation is often seen as a place of respite and recovery for people in crisis. It is helpful to have knowledge of the resources available for counselling and support in your local area and online, so that you are able to help people who may come to you, who are ready to break their silence and to seek help
This is a problem for some people within our congregations as well; the Church is not immune, and we need to approach this with compassion, as well as offering resources.
Rev. Garner has advice, “If you know someone who is experiencing financial difficulties, one of the possible causes may be gambling. We encourage people to have a brave conversation, and to helpfully point towards seeking professional support from Wesley Mission which is effective and available,” he said.
Step 5. Find out where to access the campaign and support
Access the campaign advocacy letter to send to MPs and read more about the campaign on dedicated the Alliance for Gambling Reform website.
If gambling is a problem for you, help is available. Call Wesley Mission’s gambling counselling hotline on 1300 827 638 or Gambling Help on 1800 858 858.
If you want to talk to someone right now, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or use crisis chat online.