Uniting Church supports cashless gambling in NSW

Uniting Church supports cashless gambling in NSW

The Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT and the CEO and Superintendent of Wesley Mission have expressed their support towards cashless gambling in NSW.

Rev. Simon Hansford and Rev. Stu Cameron met with Rev. Tim Costello, Chief Advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform on Wednesday 19 May to discuss cashless gambling in NSW and how it could reduce gambling harm and improve the life of our communities.

Rev. Hansford said reducing gambling harm continues to be a priority issue of social justice given the considerable number of connections between this major public health issue and many others.

“The significant gambling losses occurring every day in NSW are harming individuals and families throughout our communities,” Rev. Hansford said.

“So many issues we face as a community have connections to gambling, including family violence, relationship breakdowns, mental ill-health and homelessness. We want to ensure our communities grow in peace, health and happiness, and reducing gambling harm will be a significant contribution towards this positive growth.”

Wesley Mission is a provider of gambling counselling and legal services, ensuring Stu Cameron has gambling harm as a clear focus of his work.

“A radical change such as this move towards cashless gambling could have a considerable impact on people who are experiencing gambling harm, which is a significant number of people in NSW,” Rev. Cameron said.

“Many of the current measures aimed at preventing gambling harm, such as self-exclusion from gaming areas, are ineffective because venues do not take responsibility for the wellbeing of their customers. Cashless gambling reforms must be designed and implemented carefully and properly, with input from people with lived experience and counsellors. Then they could have a real impact on people’s lives as well as preventing money laundering.”

Rev. Costello welcomed the support of the Uniting Church for the cashless gambling reforms in NSW.

“These are important moves being made in NSW that have repercussions for the whole community, and ideally will set valuable precedents for other states around Australia,” Rev. Costello said.

“We suffer far too much gambling harm in this country. We must do everything we can to reduce gambling harm – we will all benefit when that happens. We cannot sustain people losing $14 billion a year nationally on poker machines. That’s draining our local economies and hurting families.”

Rev. Costello said a well-designed cashless gambling system was a winner for the people of NSW.

“It’s imperative this change is done right. If not, we will be opening up to a potentially massive increase in gambling harm,” Rev. Costello said. “We simply cannot have a situation where we effectively move to ‘tap and go’ gambling without any measures in place to reduce gambling harm.

“Done right, a move to cashless gambling will all but eliminate money laundering via poker machines and casinos and will also help reduce gambling harm. Done wrongly, you may as well set up direct debits to people’s bank accounts and sign over their mortgage to venues. It could be that dangerous.”

Rev. Costello said elements key for a cashless system to not increase gambling harm included:

  1. The system must be linked to verified ID, and to self-exclusion registers
  2. Low load limits should be in place to ensure people regularly take breaks from gambling, which is an evidence-based circuit breaker for harm
  3. Does not allow the use of credit cards for gambling
  4. Is universal and compulsory across all NSW gambling venues.

“We have faith this can be done right, and we have come together today to ensure that’s the case,” Rev. Costello said. “I thank Simon and Stu for their invaluable support for gambling reform.”

Meanwhile, former ACT Attorney-General and Executive Minister at Kippax Uniting Church, Rev. Gordon Ramsay has been appointed the new CEO of the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

While in government, Gordon championed a gambling reform agenda in the ACT, resulting in a more than 20 percent reduction in poker machines, and substantial regulatory improvements that have laid the pathway for ongoing reform.

Rev. Ramsay said he was proud of leading a public health approach to gambling in the ACT, and of cementing relationships with advocates, regulatory bodies, industry and people with lived experience to help reduce gambling harm.

Before entering the ACT Parliament, he spent two decades working in community services and advocacy, both locally and nationally. Rev. Ramsay established and grew UnitingCare Kippax into one of the ACT’s best recognised and respected social service and advocacy organisations.

Ashley Donnelly

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