“THEY nearly destroyed my life and I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”
That’s just one of the more than 600 powerful comments about poker machines that Tasmanians have submitted to the parliamentary inquiry into gambling in our state.
For the first time, our MPs are explicitly seeking the views of Tasmanians on the location, number and type of poker machines in our community, with submissions closing in just a few days.
To ensure as many people could express their view, Community Voice on Pokies Reform offered an open letter for Tasmanians to sign if they agreed poker machines do not belong in pubs and clubs.
Our alliance of more than 40 community organisations, peak bodies, councils and professional groups has a simple position — get pokies out of pubs and clubs and help affected businesses transition out of having them; do not increase the number of machines in the casinos, and make them safe and fair; and continue gambling addiction support services08.
Why do we want this? Because the evidence is overwhelming that poker machines are not like ordinary gambling. They are designed to addict, and rigged to win, and take advantage of the vulnerable, causing tremendous harm.
We know our view is overwhelmingly shared by Tasmanians, as is shown in poll after poll.
Little wonder more than 2300 Tasmanians have signed our open letter; and the hundreds of comments are telling. Take for example these brave Tasmanians relating personal experiences:
“The last person in the world I would have predicted 10 years ago to be addicted to pokies and lost more money than I can bear to think about, is me!”
“My mother, father, grandmother, uncle and other family has spent enough in poker machines to build multiple houses. I hate these pointless contraptions.”
“I have no doubt that the easy availability of pokies has enormously multiplied the harm caused through multiplying the number of addicts. I am one myself.”
Professionals across the spectrum of our community — GPS, real estate agents, mental health experts, youth workers and people who work in hospitality — also wrote to document their experience and concern. Some examples:
“About time we put an end to this. I have worked in the industry for the past 10 years and see pensioners in there not spending any money on food but instead putting it all into the machines they would be there from open to close and it is really sad.”
“As a volunteer with St Vincent de Paul Society I see the problems created for families with a member who is addicted to pokies. Please lessen the harm they cause.”
“As a psychologist I have seen a number of people devastated by gambling. Pokies destroy lives.”
“I work in youth mental health and quite often listen to the sad lived experience of the children of adult parents with a severe gambling addiction to poker machines. Leaving them without food and warm clothes. Profoundly impacting on a young person’s mental health.”
Other comments showed Tasmanians have no doubt their communities would be more social, happy and prosperous without poker machines, and they strongly object to our Government making money from them:
“Let’s return our pubs and clubs to places of community, where people meet, talk, eat and listen to music, not sit alone in the dark and gamble.”
“Poker machines are a blight on the community. WA pubs and clubs manage to survive without them so please get them out of ours?”
“Bring back live music, social activities, community atmosphere and life to our suburban hotels. Pokies are a life destroying and anti-social evil!”
“Gambling addiction is an appallingly exploitative way to fund the state. Pokies are the worst as they appeal to the lowest common denominator, substituting for human community connection.”
“It’s simple — the State Government has no moral justification for profiting from the destruction of people’s lives.”
Finally, two comments sum up the community desire for real political leadership to get pokies out of pubs and clubs:
“There are better ways to raise revenue, without destroying people’s lives”
“Please be the Premier who’ll be remembered for doing something truly good for his state.”
Community Voice on Pokies Reform has submitted our open letter with the thousands of signatures and comments to the inquiry, and will collect signatures until the inquiry reports in September 2017, and then present it to the Premier. Tasmanians could not be clearer. The question is whether our MPs, including the Premier, listen and act?
Meg Webb is spokeswoman for Community Voice on Pokies Reform, a coalition of 42 groups that want poker machines removed from Tasmanian pubs and clubs. The open letter can be found at www.sarc.good.do