Monday, 20 June 2011

Uniting Church President Rev Alistair Macrae speaks on behalf of Churches Gambling Taskforce.

The Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce today renewed their call for mandatory consumer protection measures to give Australia’s problem gamblers more control and more choice about how much they spend on poker machines.

“With 90,000 problem gamblers losing an average of $21,000 each a year, gambling in Australia is a huge issue and more power needs to be given to the consumer so they can set their loss limits,” Chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce Rev Tim Costello said.

“Consumer protection measures like the pre-commitment scheme will help consumers to choose and stick to their own gambling limit, which can be as high or low as they like.

“The gambling industry says there is no evidence to suggest pre-commitment measures will protect consumers from big losses. But if you accept the argument that something shouldn't be tried because it hasn't been implemented anywhere else, then nothing would ever change.

“The same argument was used about seat belts in cars 40 years ago.  Seat belts had been in cars for years, but in 1970 Victoria became the first jurisdiction in the world to make it compulsory to use them.  Only then did we see a dramatic decrease in road deaths as a result.

“I think Australia has the intelligence and confidence to take the initiative and give consumers more power and choice when it comes to gambling,” Rev Costello said. 

Only 600,000 Australians play poker machines on a weekly basis. However, 15 percent of the people who play poker machines are problem gamblers and account for 40 percent of the expenditure on the pokies.

President of the Uniting Church the Reverend Alistair Macrae said each year thousands of children suffer because of the impact of someone’s poker machine gambling, with problem gamblers each affecting at least one child and adversely impacting on 10 others.

“Three quarters of severe problem gamblers play poker machines, and it’s possible to lose $1,500 an hour on high intensity machines,” Rev Macrae said.

“The social costs of problem gambling are high with relationship breakdown, mental health issues, unemployment, debt and financial hardship, theft and social isolation contributing to costs estimated at $4.7 billion a year,” Rev Macrae said.

The Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce is calling on all states and territories to sign on to legislation that will ensure all gaming venues have mandatory pre-commitment technology in place by 2014.