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Pokies legislation a win for Australian communities

Rev Tim Costello

THE Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce welcomed the support of the Australian Greens for the Australian Government's historic gambling reform legislation, introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday 1 November.

Taskforce Chair Rev Tim Costello said the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012 is a solid platform for further reform.

"The federal government–funded National Gambling Research Commission, negotiated by the Greens, will provide a broader base for research that will importantly focus on preventive measures," Rev Costello said.

"Under the new legislation all poker machines will be fitted with pre-commitment technology by 2016.

"Gamblers will be able to set a limit that applies to all poker machines across their state.

"The legislation also introduces ATM withdrawal limits of $250 from February 2013.

"These measures and others in the legislation will provide greater protection for people who are living with a gambling addiction and for those people who are at risk of developing a problem.

"The measures included in the legislation counter one of the industry's key arguments against reform: that modifying poker machines to enable players to set their loss limits will be expensive and send the industry broke.

"We believe the legislation is a good start, but further reform is essential. Voluntary pre-commitment is about as safe as voluntary speed limits on the road.

"Members of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce have been long-time advocates for reform.

"Australia's $12 billion poker machine industry survives largely on the back of vulnerable people in the grip of addiction. Total poker machine revenue in Australia is around $12 billion a year. Around 40 per cent of those profits come from people addicted to pokies.

"The taskforce has consistently called for a mandatory pre-commitment scheme that requires gamblers in all electronic gaming venues to set spending limits on high-loss poker machines. We have also called for $1 maximum bets on all machines limiting losses to $120 an hour, and other consumer protection measures such as reduced access to cash in gambling venues.

"While the legislation doesn't address all these issues it will put in place a much stronger pre-commitment system than was committed to in the Victorian legislation, which had the support of all parties in the Victorian Parliament," Rev Costello said.

Members of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce include the heads of Christian churches in Australia and the heads of their social services agencies nationally. It is united by a commitment to reduce the harm caused by poker machine gambling.

Visit GamblingReform.org.

Watch Leigh Sales speaking with Green's gambling spokeperson Richard di Natale on the ABC's 7.30, 31 October: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2012/s3622991.htm.

Read Andrew Wilkie's media release.

Listen to Andrew Wilkie on Radio National, 1 November 2012: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/pokie-reform-andrew-wilkie/4345262.

Read Jenny Macklin's second reading speech.

Read Jenny Macklin's media release, 31 October 2012: http://jennymacklin.fahcsia.gov.au/node/2146.

Read Richard Willingham in the Sydney Morning Herald, 1 November 2012: http://www.smh.com.au/national/greens-deal-opens-way-for-delayed-national-poker-machine-reform-20121031-28ke1.html#ixzz2AuUFME6S.

Read/watch ABC News, 1 November 2012: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-31/greens-back-pokies-reform-bill/4344746.

Read Michael Mullins in Eureka Street on betting apps for Cup Day: http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=33925.

Photo : Rev Tim Costello