Media Release: Friday, May 28, 2010

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) today backed mooted action to reduce poker machine numbers in the ACT and put more funds into addressing problem gambling, saying that more attention needs to be given to the devastating impact of gambling addictions on ACT families.

ACL’s ACT Director Nick Jensen welcomed ACT Gaming Minister Andrew Barr’s proposals to reduce poker machines by as many as one in seven in local clubs as an important first step and urged the Government to go further. He also called for the Government to consider other measures to reduce problem gambling.

“We have long been concerned about the heavy reliance of State and Territory Governments on gambling revenue and the way this can prevent them from dealing effectively with problem gambling,” Mr Jensen said.

“Reducing the number of poker machines in the ACT – which as Mr Barr has said has the highest number of poker machines per capita of any state – would be an important step forward in breaking the stranglehold gaming machines have on the Territory and we urge Cabinet to support this initiative.

“We also encourage the Government to consider other measures to reduce problem gambling in line with the draft Productivity Commission report released late last year. These include limiting access to cash in venues, reducing the amount of money people can lose through lower limits on bets per button push, and assisting people to set limits on how much time and money they spend.”

Mr Jensen said the draft Productivity Commission report into problem gambling showed that gamblers in Australia lose over $18 billion per year including over $12 billion on poker machines. A large part of that take comes from problem gamblers who account for about 15 per cent of regular poker machine players (with a further 15 per cent facing moderate risks).

“The social costs for problem gamblers and their families are immense and it is vital that the ACT Government reduces poker machine numbers and introduces stronger measures to combat problem gambling,” Mr Jensen said.

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan