Churches Launch National Gambling Taskforce
22 March 2011 at 5:01 pm
With Australia’s 90,000 problem gamblers losing an average of $21,000 each year, Australia’s major churches have banded together to launch the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, calling for consumer protection measures such as a mandatory pre-commitment scheme to become mandatory.
Senior representatives from the Uniting, Catholic, Baptist and Anglican churches, The Salvation Army and church-based social service peak bodies met in Canberra along with senior representatives from the church-based social services peak bodies to launch the taskforce on gambling reform.
President of the Uniting Church the Reverend Alistair Macrae says that each year thousands of children suffer because of the impact of someone’s poker machine gambling, with problem gamblers each affecting at least one child and adversely impacting upon 10 others.
Between 2008 and 2009, Australians spent $12 billion on poker machines, however gambling on poker machines is a regular activity for a relatively small number of people according to Macrae.
Reverend Macrae says only 600,000 Australians play poker machines on a weekly basis, however 15% of these are problem gamblers who account for 40% of expenditure on the pokies. The Productivity Commission estimated that these problem gamblers lose an average of $21,000 each year.
He says three quarters of severe problem gamblers play poker machines, and it is possible to lose $1,500 an hour on modern machines.
The social costs of problem gambling are high, Macrae says, with relationship breakdown, mental health issues, unemployment, debt and financial hardship, theft and social isolation contributing to costs estimated at $4.7 billion a year.
Macrae slammed the gambling industry, saying if a club or hotel can only exist on the back of problem gambling spending and its huge human cost, it is not a viable business. He says the priority of the taskforce is to ensure gambling policy supports consumer protection and harm minimisation.
The Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce is calling for measures which will help those who chose to gamble to do so more safely. One of these measures is the introduction of a mandatory national pre-commitment scheme for poker machines.
Macrae says the Taskforce supports such a measure because it focuses regulation on machines and venues and requires gamblers to choose and stick to their own gambling limit. People choose what limit to set, as high or low as they like.
The Australian Churches Gambling Forum is calling 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.