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Churches launch national gambling taskforce

Rev Alistair Macrae. Photo by Paddy Macrae and courtesy of Crosslight
AUSTRALIA’S MAJOR churches met at a national forum in Canberra on 22 March to launch the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce amid calls for urgent action on gambling reform.

Senior representatives from the Uniting, Catholic, Baptist and Anglican churches and The Salvation Army attended along with senior representatives from the church-based social services peak bodies. Existing gambling taskforces were also represented.

Uniting Church President and forum chair, Rev Alistair Macrae, said that each year thousands of children suffer because of the impact of someone’s poker machine gambling.

“For every problem gambler at least one child is affected and 10 other people are directly adversely impacted,” said Mr Macrae. “Between 2008 and 2009 Australians spent $12 billion on poker machines.”

He said 15 per cent of regular gamblers account for 40 per cent of expenditure on the pokies.

“These gamblers are estimated by the Productivity Commission to lose on average $21,000 each year.

“The social costs are high – relationship breakdown, mental health issues, unemployment, debt and financial hardship, theft and social isolation.

“These costs are estimated at $4.7 billion a year.

“Our priority is to ensure gambling policy supports consumer protection and harm minimisation.

“The Australian Churches want to see measures which, if people choose to gamble, will help people to do so more safely. A national pre-commitment scheme that is mandatory in all gaming machine venues is one effective consumer protection measure.

“It will help people to help themselves to set and stick to their limits,” said Mr Macrae.

The Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce calls on all states and territories to sign on to legislation that will ensure all gaming venues have mandatory pre-commitment technology in place by 2014.

Photo : Rev Alistair Macrae. Photo by Paddy Macrae and courtesy of Crosslight