Surf Coast community support tackling pokie addiction
The Australian Government’s plans to help poker machine addicts and their families were a key topic at today’s problem gambling forum hosted by Member for Corangamite Darren Cheeseman.
The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, joined Mr Cheeseman, church leaders and local community workers at Torquay Bowls Clubs to hear about the local impact of problem gambling.
Attendees included Chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, Reverend Tim Costello, Chair of the Victorian Interchurch Gambling Taskforce, Mark Zirnsak, and former problem gambler Gabriela Byrne.
“It was great to see a clear commitment today from community leaders on the Surf Coast to tackling problem gambling,” Ms Macklin said.
“We need to help problem gamblers take control of their addiction. That’s why the government is committed to introducing changes in gambling venues to help problem gamblers and their families.
“What is clear from today is that there is a silent majority in the community who know that families are being destroyed by pokie addiction, and they want us to act.
“Gabriela’s story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Stories like hers are too rarely heard in this debate, but these reforms are for people like Gabriela.”
The Productivity Commission – Australia’s leading economic research body – recommended full or ‘mandatory’ pre-commitment as the most effective and targeted way to tackle problem gambling.
“All the research clearly shows that people, including problem gamblers, do generally set realistic limits for themselves on how much they want to spend,” Ms Macklin said.
“But once they get into ‘the zone’ their limits go out the window. That’s what mandatory pre-commitment is about – helping people set and keep to limits they set themselves.”
Mr Cheeseman said today’s forum put a spotlight on the damage caused to local families by poker machines.
“Pokie addiction is real and it is hurting local families,” Mr Cheeseman said.
“Our region lost more than $120 million on pokies the last financial year. On the Surf Coast, we know that more than $300,000 was lost in October alone.
“While many of us like a punt, too much of this revenue is coming off the backs of people who are gambling away their entire family budgets.”
Mr Cheeseman said responsible gambling was a legitimate source of revenue for clubs, and that clubs would continue to be at the heart of the community.
“The Government’s changes will give problem gamblers a tool to help manage their addiction, while still allowing local recreational players to still enjoy a night out at their club.”
Get the facts on problem gambling
- Up to five million Australians are affected by problem gambling each year, including those with a gambling addiction, their friends, family and employers.
- The social cost to the community of problem gambling is estimated to be at least $4.7 billion a year.
- Problem gamblers spend on average about $21,000 each year – a third of the average Australian annual salary.
- Only about 15 per cent of problem gamblers seek help, and only when they’ve hit rock bottom.
- Three-quarters of problem gamblers have problems with poker machines. In fact, 1 in 6 people who play the pokies regularly has a serious addiction.
For more information on the impact of problem gambling the Australian Government’s reforms and to hear more stories like Gabriele’s visit www.problemgambling.gov.au