New England churches back poker machine reform

New England churches back poker machine reform

Local churches in the federal electorate of New England in New South Wales have given a thousand signed postcards to local federal member, Tony Windsor, in a show of solidarity for poker machine reform.

New South Wales Churches Gambling Taskforce representative, the Rev. Rod Benson, said the Wilkie-Gillard agreement might have fallen by the way but the appetite for reform was still strong, especially in areas hard hit by an aggressive and misleading industry campaign.

The postcards, presented in Tamworth on March 7, call on Mr Windsor to strongly consider support for $1 maximum bets, enforceable self-set gambling limits, limited opening hours in gaming areas and strengthening measures to rein in online gambling.

Fifteen churches participated in the campaign from parishes in Gunnedah, Tamworth, Armidale, Glen Innes, Inverell, Ashford, Bundarra, Cockburn Valley, Emmaville and Deepwater and Nundle.

“There is clearly an appetite for reform,” Mr Benson said.

“The voices of local communities are a powerful incentive for local members to take action.

“Poker machines present a huge risk to around a third of regular players in Australia, with addicted players spending on average up to $21,000 a year on machines.

“Australia’s $12 billion poker machine industry survives largely on the back of vulnerable Australians in the grip of addiction. In fact, around 40 per cent of total poker machine spending comes from people addicted to pokies.”

Mr Benson said, “This is an unsustainable model on business and ethical grounds.

“This Government, with the support of the cross benchers including Mr Windsor, can still deliver solid public policy that will modify the machines and limit the harm caused by poker machine gambling.

“The New South Wales Churches Gambling Taskforce, in line with the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, supports both mandatory pre-commitment measures and $1 maximum bets as part of a suite of necessary reform measures. We will continue to work with all politicians of goodwill to ensure reform continues.”

Members of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce include the heads of Christian churches in Australia and the heads of their social services agencies nationally and state-based church taskforces in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. Established last year, the taskforce is united by a commitment to reducing the harm caused by poker machine gambling.

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