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Uniting for Change on Poker Machines

Lin Hatfield Dodds National Director, UnitingCare Australia
As our thoughts turn to Christmas, we reflect on the importance of family and community in our lives.

At UnitingCare Australia we are also putting a spotlight on the harm to families and communities that is caused by poker machine addiction.

We encourage to you to find out more about this important debate by visiting our website www.unitingforchange.org.au.

Australians spent $19 billion on gambling in 2009 and 62% of this money was fed into poker machines.

There are 200,000 pokies Australia-wide and they account for more than 80% of all problem gamblers.

In other words, most problem gamblers play poker machines.

In some venues it is possible to load $10,000 into a poker machine at a time. Average losses on these high-intensity machines are $1,200 an hour.

The average weekly wage in Australia is $1,300.

Around 600,000 Australians play poker machines weekly at a cost of $7000-$8000 a year per player – a good bite out of most household incomes.

Around 95,000 of these weekly players are ‘problem gamblers’ and a further 95,000 are at risk of becoming a problem gambler. Problem gambling is devastating and its effects can be long-lasting.

As well as financial ruin, the harms include depression, relationship breakdown, lower work productivity, job losses, crime and all too often, suicide.

For every problem gambler up to 10 more people – family, children, friends, colleagues – suffer.

Most Australians support changes to the way the poker machine industry operates.

A 2011 poll conducted by the Australian National University found that:
• 84% of respondents agree there are too many opportunities for gambling nowadays
• 80% agree that gambling is dangerous for family life
• 74% agree people should be limited to spending an amount they nominate before they start gambling
• 70% agree that gambling in Australia should be more tightly controlled

A quick glance at most newspapers shows that despite public support this is still a hotly contested area of public policy. Members of parliament are under pressure.

It is time for citizens to make their voices heard in this debate particularly as we head into the time of year that reminds us compassion and love are at the heart our Christian faith.

You can visit Uniting for Change to get the facts on poker machines, to hear people’s stories of addiction and change and to easily get hold of the contact details of your local MP.

Our voices united are strong. Together, we can make the difference.

Visit www.unitingforchange.org.au and click on our campaigns.

Photo : Lin Hatfield Dodds National Director, UnitingCare Australia