Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

States ignore problem gambling – a key cause of hardship

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, today called on the States and Territories to spend more of their record gambling profits on problem gambling, which is a cause of family financial hardship and poverty.

Despite gambling being a cause of financial hardship, the States and Territories (with the exception of Tasmania) are spending less than half a per cent of their annual record $5 billion gambling revenue on problem gambling, she said.

Senator Kay Patterson said the release today of a Parliamentary inquiry into poverty presented the States and Territories with the opportunity to do more to tackle problem gambling, which led to family hardship.

New South Wales, which gained $1.76 billion revenue from gambling taxes in 2001-02, spent only $6 million or 0.34% to address problem gambling.

Victoria collected more than $1.78 billion in gambling revenue in 2001-02 – the highest of any State. Victoria’s expenditure on gambling has increased by nearly 300% in the past 10 years.

Senator Patterson said despite Victoria’s gambling revenue windfall, the Bracks Labor government spent only $8 million or 0.44% of its massive revenue on problem gambling services.

“Problem gamblers make up just two per cent of the adult Australian population. However, they account for one third of total gambling expenditure of $15 billion a year,” she said.

“Problem gambling behaviour can have devastating consequences for individuals, families and communities and often leads to family breakdown, financial crisis, depression, homelessness, suicide and crime.

“With the release today of a Parliamentary report into poverty, I call on Opposition family and community services spokesman, Wayne Swan, to urge his State and Territory Labor colleagues to allocate more money to tackle problem gambling, which causes so much hardship in the community.”

The Federal Government has committed $1.5 million over five years focussing on a national research and education campaign to identify the causes and prevent problem gambling.

Senator Patterson said the Australian Government would benchmark the States and Territories on problem gambling to inform people how their State or Territory was performing.