A coalition of community sector organisations has called for urgent action to reduce the harm caused by poker machine gambling in Tasmania.
The coalition wants poker machines removed from hotels and clubs, and the machines made less dangerous by limiting the amount of money that can be lost on them.
In the past year, Tasmanians lost $194.6 million on poker machines gambling.
“We care about people and making sure communities are safe, healthy places to be,” said Anglicare CEO Chris Jones. “We’re all too familiar with the many negatives associated with poker machine gambling – family breakdown, divorce, depression, financial hardship, health problems, interactions with legal and corrective services, work issues and suicide. Community organisations respond to the needs of people who come to us for help. But it’s time to prevent the damage from happening in the first place. It’s like addressing a disease outbreak at its source”.
Poker machines have been allowed in clubs and hotels in Tasmanian communities since 1997. There are 3500 machines state wide.
The machines are programmed to win and are currently allowed to operate with very few measures to limit the harm. The coalition expressed concern that poker machines were deliberately placed in some of the poorest postcodes in the state.
The coalition called for poker machines to be phased out of hotels and clubs, a reduction in the maximum bet limit to $1, and a measure to allow people to set an enforceable limit on their losses.
Community surveys have shown that 80% of Tasmanians view poker machines as a serious social problem and believe that there should be fewer of them.
“Before any further decisions are made about gambling in our state, the Government must consult the community,” said Kym Goodes, CEO of the Tasmanian Council of Social Service. “Give people the opportunity to have a say about the number and location of poker machines, the number of casinos, and the level of consumer protection”.
The coalition members are Anglicare Tasmania, CatholicCare, Hobart City Mission, Launceston Benevolent Society, Launceston City Mission, Mission Australia, Neighbourhood Houses Tasmania, Relationships Australia, Sripture Union of Tasmania, St Vincent de Paul Society, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania Uniting Church in Australia, Tasmanian Baptist Churches, Tasmanian Council of Social Service, The Salvation Army and UnitingCare Tasmania.