The Tasmanian Government has a genuine opportunity to lead the nation by responding to growing community concerns about addictive poker machine gambling
With a parliamentary inquiry into the gaming sector underway, calls from many organisations, including the Australian Christian Lobby, for significant reforms particularly surrounding the number, location and use of poker machines in the state is gathering momentum.
Australian Christian Lobby Tasmanian director Mark Brown will front the inquiry this week, advocating one-dollar maximum bets, decreased Jackpot amounts and frequencies, slower spin rates and a reduction in the number of poker machines in Tasmania.
In March last year the ACL invited parliamentarians to a special viewing of the documentary film, Ka-Ching, Pokie Nation, which exposes the methods the gambling industry employs to intentionally addict people to poker machines.
With the parliamentary committee receiving 147 submissions from individuals, community service groups, business and Government, gambling is clearly an issue where the community expects reform.
The social ills caused by poker machine addiction are self-evident but now clearly backed by research – family violence and breakdown, neglect of children, increased risk of suicide not to mention the hidden economic cost to the Tasmanian economy.
A survey conducted by Anglicare showed that 84 per cent of Tasmanians ‘disagree’ that the Tasmanian community benefits from having poker machines in hotels and clubs, 66 per cent ‘strongly disagree’. One in two people (50%) were of the view that poker machines should be ‘removed completely’.
The inquiry is welcome news for many community groups concerned with the harmful consequences of problem gambling. However, doubt remained about how committed the government is to supporting its most vulnerable citizens.