GamblingGirlJust over two years ago I was meeting with anti-gambling activists around a table at Old Parliament House in Canberra.



Led by Rev Tim Costello, the churches gambling task force had high hopes for poker machine reform.



These poverty-creating scourges rip $5 billion a year from the pockets of addicts.



Moves were afoot by the then Gillard Government to introduce mandatory pre-commitment technology which would require punters to decide  how much they were prepared to lose before they started feeding money to machines.



This, along with plans to limit withdrawals from ATMs at gambling venues, had the potential to provide some protection to people vulnerable to gambling addictions.



But a train wreck of events occurred which has all but scuttled any chance of national reform in the foreseeable future.



First, the minority Gillard Government seized on the defection of Peter Slipper from Queensland's Liberal National Party to make him Speaker.



This gave Ms Gillard more breathing space in the finely balanced House of Representatives and meant she no longer needed the vote of Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilke.



Ms Gillard quickly reneged on the minority government deal with Mr Wilke which traded power for pokie reform.



A watered down reform proposal was then legislated which would have restricted ATM withdrawals and required poker machines to be fitted with pre-commitment technology for the "flicking of a switch" in the future.



It was a far cry from the original deal, but at least it was something.



But since the election of the Abbott Government even this modest reform is now dead.



Legislation to repeal the move to mandatory pre-commitment has passed the House of Representatives and is unlikely to be opposed by Labor in the Senate - such is the power of the clubs' lobby.



Most State Governments have also become addicted to the taxes that flow from the losses of problem gamblers.



This combined with the power of the clubs has led to a stalemate on reform that could help addicts.



Politics is a murky business and sadly money talks.



With the Abbott Government uninterested in pokie reform, efforts will now need to switch back to the states.



Like many issues of social justice, evidence of harm is not always a driver of political action.