Action Alert May 2011

This is an archived edition of Action Alert.

Putting Restrictions on Poker Machines

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when State Governments across Australia were considering the legalisation of poker machines, our political leaders assured us that this aspect of the gaming industry would be carefully monitored, would not lead to an increase in problem gambling, and would result in hotels and clubs that benefitted from poker machines giving a legislated portion of their profits back into the community. At the time, many Christians and community-minded people (including myself) protested that the legal introduction of poker machines would have a detrimental effect on society, but our complaints were dismissed as ‘wowser-ish’ and out-of-touch with the supposed reality that Australians wanted access to poker machines. We were told that Australia is a nation of gamblers and that it would be better to channel that inherent gambling tendency along legal and ‘benefit-back-to-the-community’ lines. It was to be a win-win-win situation; a win for people who wanted to gamble, a win for hotels and clubs where the poker machines would be placed, and a win for the community that would benefit from the legislated gifts from the hotels and clubs (and for the State Governments that would benefit from the taxes).

After some twenty years of legalised poker machines, the reality is not what was promised! In 2009, the Productivity Commission released a report on its major investigation into the gambling industry. The report revealed that there are some 100,000 problem gamblers in Australia who lose, on average, $21,000 per year and who create a social burden of $4,700,000,000 to our nation. Some problem gamblers are losing more than $1,000 per hour on poker machines, and this is why the machines are referred to as “the crack cocaine of the gambling industry”. The report made a number of recommendations to reform the ‘poker machine industry’, including requiring problem gamblers to set pre-determined daily limits on how much they are prepared to lose and having maximum withdrawal limits from ATMs in gaming venues.

Senator Nick Xenophon (South Australia – Independent) and Andrew Wilkie [Member for Denison (in Tasmania) – Independent] are championing these reforms in the Federal Parliament. Mr Wilkie has an agreement with the Prime Minister that the Federal Government will introduce legislation to put these reforms into law, in exchange for his support for the Prime Minister’s minority government. However, Clubs Australia is strongly opposed to these proposed reforms and is planning to spend $20,000,000 in a lobbying and advertising campaign to persuade the Government to not proceed with the reforms.

By and large, Christians would recognise the social problems caused by the poker machine industry and would support the Productivity Commission’s recommendations aimed at reducing the level and severity of problem gambling. While we may not agree with Senator Xenophon and Mr Wilkie on all matters, this is certainly one issue where we have a common cause! So, contact Senator Xenophon and Mr Wilkie to commend them for their efforts to tackle problem gambling and express your support for the proposals to reform the poker machine industry. The contact details are –

Senator Nick Xenophon
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

(02) 62773552
senator.xenophon@aph.gov.au


Mr Andrew Wilkie
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

(02) 62774766
andrew.wilkie.mp@aph.gov.au

It would also be appropriate to contact the Prime Minister to urge her to honour the commitment that she made to Mr Wilkie in this matter. Contact Julia Gillard, Prime Minister [PO Box 6022, House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, 2600, or email at the website http://www.pm.gov.au/contact-your-PM, or phone (02) 62777700].

Two left-wing lobby groups are conducting a joint on-line petition urging the Government to support the poker machine industry reforms. Avaaz.org is a global organisation claiming to have some seven million people in its campaign network. GetUp is an Australian not-for-profit community campaigning group empowering Australians to have their say on important national issues. Both of these organisations usually run campaigns that are pro-homosexual-rights, pro-abortion, pro-climate-change-action, anti-globalisation, anti-capitalist, and so on. You might like to sign the on-line petition – www.getup.org.au/campaign/pokies – but you need to be aware that you may then ‘join’ GetUp’s database and be sent information about other campaigns that they might be running in the future.

* * * * * * * * * *

Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?
Psalm 94:16

* * * * * * * * * *

This monthly release is prepared by Pastor Brian Robertson (P O Box 2367, Bundaberg, 4670) to inform Christian people about issues within our society.  “Action Alert” does not promote any one political party, but encourages its readers to be “salt and light” by speaking out on some of these matters.  The views expressed in “Action Alert” are those of the author and are not necessarily those of a local church or a denominational organisation.  To the extent permissible by law, no church or denomination accepts liability for anything contained in this publication and any use made of it.