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Poker Machines and Shopping Centres do not mix!

Wednesday 10th of January 2007

“The NSW State Government’s decision on the eve of Christmas holidays to allow clubs with poker machines in shopping centres is of great concern and contrary to the principles and objectives of the National Framework on Problem Gambling 2004-2008 which the state government helped to frame,” says the Rev. Brian Kirk, Executive Director for the Anglican Counselling Service.


According to Rev. Kirk, one of the guiding principles of the Framework is ‘that gamblers, industry, support services, the community and all government levels all share the responsibility for minimising the harm associated with problem gambling’.


Rev Kirk is concerned that rather than minimise the risk of harm, the decision will increase the risk of harm. Rev. Kirk believes that allowing clubs to build shopping centres next door to gambling venues will attract families and young people increasing temptation especially to those more susceptible. It would hard to believe that ‘family and community impact statements’ would have supported such a decision.


When hearing the decision, a client of ACS seeking help for problem gambling expressed utter disbelief. The client tries to avoid gambling venues to reduce temptation and tries to pay most of their bills online. ‘By allowing gambling venues to build shopping centres next door’, says the client, ‘will force them to stay at home more to avoid the temptation.’


A report by the Productivity Commission in 1999 called, “Australia’s Gambling Industries” found that levels of problem gambling are a major concern. It is estimated that in Australia today, 2.3% of the population or 483,000 people have significant gambling problems.


The report adds that “for every one of these an additional 5 to 10 people are adversely affected in a direct way by their gambling.” Around 26% of these problem gamblers are under the age of 25.


According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, net takings from gambling in NSW in 2004-2005 were $6.2 billion. Poker/gaming machines accounted for 55.7% of net takings. The NSW State Government pocketed a record in excess of $750m in taxes and levies. It appears governments’ think gambling is a good source of revenue-raising.


But we forget the fall out: the compulsive gamblers who turn to crime, broken and shattered families, children in poverty and/or homeless, a pattern of substance abuse, suicide attempts and child abuse and neglect that warp and scar the lives of children growing up in such homes. It is estimated in America that 7% of teenagers are pathologically addicted to gambling (J. Taylor Buckley, “Nation Raising ‘A Generation of Gamblers,’” USA Today, 5 April 1995, 1D)


Problem gambling remains a significant community issue. In 1994 before a hearing on small business in USA, Professor John Kindt PhD Professor of Commerce and Legal Policy at the University of Illinois asserted that ‘ for every dollar of revenue generated by gambling, tax payers must dish out at least $3 in increased criminal-justice costs, social-welfare costs, high regulatory costs and increased infrastructure expenditures’.


Rev Kirk believes that the decision is ‘distasteful and inappropriate’. Allowing clubs with poker machines to operate in shopping centres increases the risk of the exploitation of the vulnerable – the young, the old, the poor and those susceptible to addictive behaviours.


For More Information Contact:

Anglican Counselling Service (Diocese of Armidale)
PO Box 3052 Tamworth 2340
Tel: (02) 6762 4380
FAX: (02) 6762 5740
Internet: acsdarm@northnet.com.au


Authorised: Rev Brian Kirk, Executive Director

10 January, 2007

Phone contact: (02) 6762 4380

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