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Call to action on poker machines

Rev Tim Costello. Photo by World Vision Australia
CHAIR OF the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, Rev Tim Costello, urges Queenslanders to speak out for a safer community as Clubs Australia brings its deceptive anti poker machine reform campaign to marginal Queensland seats.

Clubs Australia has led an aggressive, misleading campaign in NSW over the past two months aimed at protecting profits and is planning a similar campaign in Queensland from early October,” Mr Costello said.

“The impact in NSW has been significant with some Federal Members feeling the heat and questioning publicly the value
of mandatory pre commitment technology, opting instead to support Clubs Australia’s preference for voluntary measures.

“I urge Federal Members in marginal seats to hold their ground, especially in the face of a number of polls and research that show three quarters of Australians support the Government’s proposed mandatory pre commitment measures which promise to limit the damage caused by problem gambling on poker machines.

“Under the reforms all poker machine players will have to decide ahead of time how much they are willing to lose in any
gambling session.

“These limits can be as high or as low as the player likes.

“No one is telling them how much they can or can’t spend.

But once ‘in the zone’ , problem gamblers say they can’t make safe choices.”

Mr Costello said with 197 000 machines nationally, Australia has the highest number of poker machines per head in the world.

“Australians spend twelve billion dollars a year on pokies.

“Only 600 000 Australians play poker machines.

Of those, 95 000 are problem gamblers who lose on average up to $21 000 a year.

“The social costs are high, including relationship breakdown, mental health issues, unemployment, debt, financial hardship, theft and other crime, social isolation and all too often, suicide, at a cost of around $4.7 billion annually.

“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.

“As part of a raft of measures, mandatory pre commitment measures will help gamblers who are ready to help themselves and help protect a lot of people who are at risk of becoming problem gamblers.”

UnitingCare Australia provides support to the Taskforce, which includes the heads of Australian Christian Churches, including Uniting Church President, Rev Alistair Macrae, and the heads of their social services agencies.

The Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce urges church members to take action by reading the material and voicing
their concerns with local Federal Members and local media by calling radio stations, writing letters to the editor, or attending rallies.

For more information visit www.gamblingreform.org

Photo : Rev Tim Costello. Photo by World Vision Australia