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Clubs fiddle numbers on Norwegian poll

Rev Tim Costello
Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce Chair, Rev Tim Costello said Clubs Australia continues its campaign of deception and misinformation, this time misquoting Norwegian research, in an attempt to mislead the public on measures that will limit the impact of poker machine addiction.

Rev Costello said the Norsk Tipping report at the heart of today’s Daily Telegraph story actually says that between 2005 and 2010, the proportion of the Norwegian population with no or low risk of gambling problems increased from 94.7% to 95.6%. Over that same period, the proportion of the Norwegian population with moderate or high gambling problems decreased from 5.3% to 4.4%.

Movements between 2008 and 2010 in the ‘compulsive gambler’ category are within the standard error, and are therefore NOT SIGNIFICANT in statistical terms. In other words, no difference can be discerned. However, the number of those without any problem was SIGNIFICANTLY less in 2010 as compared to 2008, statistically speaking. Between 2009 and 2010 the number of Norwegians using off-shore internet gambling declined from 190,000 to 160,000.

“These are really encouraging statistics,” Rev Costello said. “But many clubs and hotels stand to lose millions as mandatory pre commitment measures limit the losses of people with a gambling problem. Forty percent of revenue from poker machines comes from people living with poker machine addiction.

“Australians spend twelve billion dollars a year on pokies. Only 600,000 Australians play poker machines at least weekly, and of those 95,000 are problem gamblers who lose on average up to $21,000 a year. Some lose a lot more. Another 95,000 are at risk of becoming problem gamblers. So pokies are a problem for around a third of regular players.

“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.

“Of course not all clubs profit equally from problem gamblers. Only those clubs that depend on revenue from people living with a gambling problem will suffer significant losses. And most Australians are very uncomfortable with that.

“Polls consistently show a majority of Australians support measures that require poker machine players to decide ahead of time how much they are willing to lose when they play poker machines. These self-set limits can be as low or as high as the player wants. Mandatory pre commitment measures will, as part of a raft of measures, help gambling addicts who are ready to help themselves and prevent many from developing a problem,” Rev Costello said.

The Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce encourages the Government to hold its ground in the face of the industry’s campaign self interest. Members of the Taskforce include the heads of Australian Christian Churches, including Uniting Church President Rev Alistair Macrae, and the heads of their social services agencies nationally, united by a commitment to make poker machine gambling safer.

For more information visit www.gamblingreform.org

Photo : Rev Tim Costello