Pokies reform looks set for a slow start
Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce Chair the Rev. Tim Costello has acknowledged Andrew Wilkie’s decision to support the Government’s poker machine reform legislation.
But he said the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012 represents a significant compromise on the original Wilkie Gillard agreement.
“The Taskforce has consistently sought reform of the poker machine industry in Australia, calling for a mandatory pre commitment scheme that requires gamblers in all electronic gaming venues to set spending limits on high loss poker machines,” Mr Costello said.
“We have also called for $1 maximum bets on all machines limiting losses to $120 an hour and other consumer protection measures such as reduced access to cash in gambling venues.
“While acknowledging the legislation has fallen very short of the mark, we believe it is a sufficient first step but should not be regarded as a substitute for further reform.
“The Taskforce will support this legislation because we believe that something is better than nothing.
“This legislation, if implemented, will eventually make a difference to the lives of individuals and families who are at risk of developing a gambling problem.
“We look forward to the tabling of the Bill and to working with this Government and future governments to ensure stronger consumer protection measures are in place.
“Poker machines are a dangerous product and 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. Around 40 per cent of total poker machine revenue comes from people addicted to pokies.
“While disappointed that this is not the reform we wanted, we understand Mr Wilkie’s decision to support this first step.
“This historic piece of legislation is the strongest step yet toward meaningful reform of the damaging poker machine industry in Australia,” Mr Costello said.
Members of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce include the heads of Christian churches in Australia and the heads of their social services agencies nationally. It is united by a commitment to reduce the harm caused by poker machine gambling.