Communities can thrive without pokies – The Advocate opinion piece

Michelle Wisbey 2017, Gambling, News and Media, Opinion Pieces and Public Commentary, Uncategorized

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When we discuss the future of poker machines, one thing we can all agree on is that removing them from local suburbs is sure to have an impact.

But let’s be very clear on the nature of that impact – it is a change that will see communities thrive.

It is a change that will free our towns of machines purpose-built to addict and rigged to win, a change that will save lives, boost local economies and create jobs.

We know that one in every three Tasmanians knows someone with a serious problem gambling on poker machines.

We know 40 per cent of poker machine revenue comes from the misfortunes of those with an addiction.

We know that local venues only keep a fraction of the profits from their pokies; that millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent in communities is going into the pockets of others and out of our state.

As a state, we are on the cusp of a decision that will shape our future.

Momentum is building to see Tasmanian suburbs freed of poker machines when the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes about next year at the end of the current licence.

In the Burnie local government area alone, there are 110 poker machines in four venues, each one sitting close to workplaces, shopping centres, and services.

In 2016-17, the total amount taken out of the Burnie community from these machines totalled more than $7 million, almost $500 for each adult in the area.

With one decision, our leaders can free local suburbs of pokies and alleviate the damage they inevitably bring.

If the money currently spent on poker machines were to be spent elsewhere in the local economy it would generate considerably more much-needed jobs.

Looking at Burnie alone, that’s a readymade $7 million cash injection into the city if pokies were removed, $5.4 million into Waratah-Wynyard, $7 million into Central Coast, and $12 million into Devonport. Every year.

Yes, a change would have an impact on those venues who currently have pokies – it would create a new and invigorated atmosphere for staff and guests, with a five-year timeframe to adapt.

But at the heart of the matter are the people whose lives could be saved.

Pokies are designed to addict. At Anglicare we hear the harrowing tales of those who have lost everything through their pokies addiction.

“Please help people like me fight our pokies addiction by making them not so easily accessible,” one Tasmanian wrote.

“Put communities before pokies,” said another.

“Speaking from experience, poker machines cause nothing but harm. Even when you win, you lose. They take control of your life.”

Research tells us that if poker machines are not easily accessible, people are less likely to use them.

By confining pokies to casinos, just like they do in Western Australia, we will be freeing those people who feel as if they cannot escape their pull.

Through one decision, we could help create happier, healthier lives for those who once felt trapped by their addiction.

Thousands of Tasmanians are raising their hand to call for the removal of pokies.

Let’s keep the momentum building.

It’s time to come together and make a positive change for our whole community.