Poker machine reform debate needs cold facts not hot air
The Rev. Tim Costello, Chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, has said too many people have been caught by poker the machine lobby’s propaganda and it was disappointing to see the Opposition supporting their campaign.
Mr Costello made the comments today following Clubs Australia’s rally in Sydney last night which was addressed by Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott and Member for Werriwa, Laurie Ferguson.
“The fact is that 40 per cent of clubs’ profits come from people addicted to poker machines.
“And because not all clubs profit equally, only those that rely on profits from problem gamblers will feel the pinch”, Mr Costello said.
“It’s these clubs that are operating an unsustainable business model and they should seek advice from Western Australia, where there are no poker machines outside the casino, yet communities and clubs thrive.
“Australians spend 12 billion dollars a year on pokies.
“Only 600,000 Australians play poker machines at least weekly, and of those 95,000 are poker machine addicts.
“This group of people loses on average up to $21,000 a year. Some lose a lot more. Another 95,000 are at risk of becoming problem gamblers. This second group loses on average up to $8,000 a year.
“So poker machines are a problem for around a third of regular players. It’s a very unsafe product for some.
“Church agencies help individuals, families, friends and colleagues deal with the impact of poker machine addiction. Problems include relationship breakdown, mental health problems, unemployment, debt, financial hardship, theft and other crime, social isolation and all too often, suicide.
“The social cost to the country is around $4.7 billion annually.
“Mandatory pre commitment will require all poker machine players to determine ahead of time how much they are prepared to lose in any sitting. This, as part of a range of measures, will help problem gamblers who are ready to help themselves and help protect a significant number of at risk players from becoming problem gamblers.
“It’s mandatory to wear a seatbelt, to wear a helmet on a bike. It’s illegal to serve alcohol to someone who is already drunk and there are limits on where people can smoke, to prevent the impact of passive smoking.
“This is not the nanny state in action. It’s good public policy that has lead to healthier communities. Australia’s churches call on all people of goodwill to support the reforms,” Mr Costello said.
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.