There have been mixed reactions from within the GLBTI community to plans to further regulate the use of poker machines.
Led by Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, the reforms focus on mandatory pre-commitment technology which requires punters to pre-load smart cards with a fixed dollar amount before they gamble.
Surry Hills resident and former pokie addict Rodney recently graduated from a 12-month live-in addiction program run by the Salvation Army. He thought the reforms were a good idea but only saw them as short-term solution.
“The government have had it so good for so long with pokies but they need to focus more on problem gambler programs and support,” he said.
Rodney lost over $600,000 to the pokies by his 28th birthday. Tired of hiding mounting debts from friends and contemplating suicide, he said seeking help wasn’t easy.
“I had to look hard. There were so many programs that could assist with my alcohol problems but hardly any focused on gambling,” Rodney said.
Taxi Club secretary Michelle was concerned the reforms would put the already struggling club into further financial difficulty, with banks reluctant to lend to local clubs.
A recent 25-year sale lease-back arrangement between the Taxi Club and a private investor fell through and Michelle said she was worried the reforms would make it even more difficult for the club to provide support to its members and community groups.
“Mandatory pre-commitment technology is rubbish. People will continue to gamble anyway,” she said.
If things continued the way they are, the club would consider selling off some of its pokies, which provide over half its revenue.
Gambling Impact Society (GIS) chair and founder Kate Roberts was passionate about the reforms. The GIS provides problem gambling support and community awareness to more than 40 organisations Australia-wide and is advising Andrew Wilkie and senior government employees on the issue.
“These reforms are about giving back control to gamblers and we fully support them reforms because they will prevent, protect and stop people from falling into the problem gambling river,” Roberts said.
She said the GIS was not anti-gambling but wants clubs to connect more with their communities. She disagreed with clubs like the Taxi Club which face the cost of introducing the pre-commitment technology, saying the cost will be a one-off.
Like Rodney, Roberts felt more government focus was needed on programs for problem gamblers and said a public health approach addressing addiction on a medical level was the ultimate long-term solution to the problem.
info: The Problem Gambling Help Line is on 1800 633 635.
By JEREMY MASPERO