Media Release

For release: Friday May 6, 2011

The Australian Christian Lobby has welcomed the recommendations made by the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform in their First Report and has urged the Gillard Government to implement them as a necessary first step towards reducing gambling harm.

The report, chaired by independent MP Andrew Wilkie, emphasised mandatory pre-commitments for high intensity electronic gaming machines (EGMs).

ACL Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton said that problem gambling effects thousands of Australians and preys particularly on the poor. The Report confirmed that high intensity EGMs are concentrated in low socio-economic areas and that vulnerable groups such as the mentally ill are especially at risk.

The report revealed that high intensity EGMs can cost gamers up to $1,500 per hour. About 600,000 Australians use high intensity EGMs at least weekly. 95,000 of these are classified as “problem gamblers” and lose almost $5 billion dollars each year. A further 95,000 are “at moderate risk of developing a problem”.

“While the industry argues that most gamers do not have a problem and that clubs make an important contribution to the community, those who do have or are at risk of having a problem number in the hundreds of thousands,” Mr Shelton said.

“While some of the revenue raised by these high intensity machines may go back into the community, most of it is coming from people who cannot afford it,” he said.

“The impact on certain parts of the community can be enormous and tragic. Problem gambling can ruin families, harm children, cause gamblers to lose their jobs and homes, and can affect their health,” he said.

“Mandatory pre-commitments could go some way to alleviate the tragic effects of problem gambling,” Mr Shelton said.

As well as arguing for pre-commitments, the Committee recommended greater education and counselling be offered to gamblers, including “other messages connected to pre-commitment including clear and simple messages explaining the Return to Player percentage and the warning signs of problem gambling” .

“While there would be opposition from State Governments and the industry which were addicted to gambling revenue, it was important action be taken to reverse the harm gambling visits on people,” Mr Shelton said.