From SARC research to collective advocacy- the case of poker machines in Tasmania

Imogen Ebsworth Blog, Gambling

Take action! Visit

By Imogen Ebsworth, Advocacy, Engagement and Campaigns, SARC

It is no accident that the word ‘action’ is in SARC’s name. In seeking to contribute to the creation of a just Tasmania we target our research at real life issues that Tasmanians tell us are increasing hardship and inequity. We then typically follow through by developing policy recommendations to government to address the issue, and advocate for those recommendations to be implemented.

We are not alone in our advocacy. SARC research projects often arise from discussion with Anglicare colleagues and clients, and other community sector organisations identifying similar problems. SARC research and advocacy therefore often brings together community voices around shared concerns that need fixing.

Moving from research to collective advocacy on the pokies

One such concern is the impact of poker machines. For over 10 years SARC has documented the harm done by poker machine addiction to not only the Tasmanians struggling with that addiction, but also to their family, friends, work colleagues and employers. As poker machines rigged to win and designed to addict, and their impact goes far beyond the individual, we have shown that this is a community public health issue.

Recently we mapped poker machine losses at a local government level, demonstrating that poker machines are located in greater numbers in low income areas, and cost those communities the most.

A powerful alliance echoing community concern

Our research findings mirror the experience and concerns of other community and public health sector organisations and peak bodies in Tasmania. Organisations like St Vincent de Paul, The Salvation Army, Hobart and Launceston City Missions, Uniting Care, Community Legal Centres Tasmania, Neighbourhood Houses Tasmania and Relationships Australia all offer services that mean their staff deal directly with the personal and community harm caused by poker machines.

Other peak bodies like the Mental Health Council of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Council of Social Services have strong, evidence-based concerns regarding how poker machines damage and undermine public health and exacerbate disadvantage.

As a result these organisations and more came together with Anglicare Tasmania in 2015 to create a powerful advocacy coalition — Community Voice for Pokies Reform.

Rarely has there been such a strong collective voice for change on an issue in Tasmania. We aim to work together to ensure that the Tasmanian Government:

  • Removes poker machines from hotels and clubs.
    • Regulates poker machines that remain in casinos so that they are safe and fair.

Together we lobby elected representatives, make expert submissions, and gather and reflect community wishes for the pokies to go from Tasmanian pubs and clubs.

Local Governments make their voices heard for their communities

Having mapped the losses to poker machines in each local government area, Community Voice organisations have been offering and providing written and in person briefs to Councils on the information, our research on poker machine harm, and Tasmanian community views.

While local councils don’t have the power to regulate or remove poker machines in Tasmania, they do have policies on protecting and building community well-being, and are an important reflection of their community’s wishes. With four out of five Tasmanians wanting poker machines removed completely or reduced in numbers in their community, it is vital that elected representatives reflect those concerns.

We are therefore greatly heartened to have Meander Valley, Southern Midlands, Kingborough, Brighton, Hobart City and Glenorchy City Councils as members of Community Voice for Pokies Reform.

Member organisations:

  • Anglicare Tasmania
  • Brighton Council
  • CatholicCare Tasmania
  • City of Hobart
  • Colony 47
  • Community Legal Centres Tasmania
  • Country Women’s Association in Tasmania
  • Glenorchy City Council
  • Hobart City Mission
  • Holyoake
  • Kingborough Council
  • Launceston Benevolent Society
  • Launceston City Mission
  • Lifeline Tasmania
  • Meander Valley Council
  • Men’s Resources Tasmania
  • Mental Health Council of Tasmania
  • Mission Australia
  • National Council of Women Tasmania
  • Neighbourhood Houses Tasmania
  • Relationships Australia
  • Southern Midlands Council
  • St Vincent de Paul Society
  • SU Tasmania
  • Tasmanian Baptist Churches
  • The Salvation Army
  • UnitingCare Tasmania
  • Uniting Church in Tasmania
  • Youth Network of Tasmania