Home > Queensland Synod News > Queensland Moderator calls for less reliance on gambling revenue

Queensland Moderator calls for less reliance on gambling revenue

Moderator of the Queensland Synod Rev Dr David Pitman
The following statement has been released by the Moderator of the Uniting Church Queensland Synod Rev Dr David Pitman in response to the State Government announcement of a planned extension of Gaming Machine operating authorities

The following comment was included in the Queensland Special Fiscal and Economic Statement delivered to Parliament by the Premier and Treasurer (Hon P Beattie) last month to explain decisions supporting the new funding for the Health Reform Agenda:

Over five years starting from July 1, 2006, the state-wide cap on the maximum number of gaming machine operating authorities available to hotels will be increased from 18,842 to around 20,000. This is in line with population trends and existing provisions in the Gaming Machine Act 1991.

The Act provides for changes in the cap based on population movements.

The increase in the cap is indicative in that the application of the existing regulatory framework will be the final determinant of the number actually released.

Though this increase in the number of poker machines available to Queenslanders is relatively modest and in line with previous government decisions, it raises some concerns particularly for the community sector and churches. The Director of QCOSS (Jill Lang) has already issued a Press Release expressing concern. It is regrettable and socially regressive for governments to extend their fiscal reliance on the gambling dollar and somewhat ironic that the Health budget is to be augmented by measures that are dubious in terms of their public health benefit.

Poker machines are significantly associated with problem gambling and their extension throughout the community potentially increases the number of citizens at risk to problem gambling. Moreover problem gamblers provide a disturbing proportion of gambling revenue (some estimates suggest around one-third). Furthermore gambling provides too high a proportion of government revenue (around 13% of monies raised directly by the State Government).

While the responsible gambling strategy currently implemented is Queensland is to be applauded, there is a perception that it is also an instrument for minimizing expressions of criticism and public concern about the social impacts of gambling. There is a need for research initiated by the Community Sector and conducted independent of government to substantiate the evidence that gambling is a social problem in Queensland.

It needs to be noted that those who criticize this extension of gambling facilities might have to recognize that they should be willing to forego assistance from the Gambling Community Benefit Fund ( an admittedly miniscule proportion of gambling revenue) if Government were to reduce its revenue intake from gambling.

In conclusion:

The growth of gambling in our State, especially through poker machines in Clubs and Hotels, in the past decade has contributed to social problems of addiction, crime, poverty, family breakdown and child neglect. It is ironic that the Premier’s recent statement, with its implications for these social ills, was aimed at revenue-raising for health care in this State.

While recognizing that the Government has a sound Responsible Gambling strategy we believe this is not the time for even modest extensions of gaming machine numbers. Rather we call on our government to redouble efforts to listen to church and community agencies that often have to deal with the social harm associated with problem gambling. Furthermore we believe it is time for our State government, with other levels of government, to seek measures that will reduce our State Budget’s reliance on revenue from licensed gambling.

Rev Dr David Pitman
18th November 2005

(A statement prepared at the request of the Moderator by the Rev Dr Noel Preston, Head’s of Churches representative on the Treasurer’s Responsible Gambling Advisory Committee)

Photo : Moderator of the Queensland Synod Rev Dr David Pitman