Put Pokies in their place!

Along with Elizabeth and Sharon, and another 20 people from the Canberra Region Presbytery, I attended the recent Synod meeting, held in Katoomba last weekend. During that meeting, an important proposal was adopted, relating to the campaign to support urgent reform of the poker machine industry in NSW and the ACT.

In the rationale for the proposal, members of Synod were told that Australians lose more than $12 billion to poker machines every year. This is approximately half of the total amount lost through gambling—a disturbing $24 billion dollars each year! Through 2022 an astonishing $8.1 billion was lost in NSW alone, which equates to around $1000 per person in the state—the highest rate of per capita losses anywhere in the world.

Research shows that the direct and indirect harm caused by the poker machines is devastating and far reaching. Gambling on poker machines has an impact on between 900 thousand and 1.7 million people across NSW. Gambling harm caused by poker machines directly correlates with increased rates of suicidality, domestic and family violence, financial stress,,as well as other profoundly negative social outcomes.

Wesley Mission Sydney provides gambling and financial counsellors, as well as other frontline staff; these people hear heartbreaking stories every day of lives traumatised by addiction wrought by poker machines.

Last October Wesley Mission launched the Put Pokies in Their Place coalition to work in relation to the NSW Government. The coalition now includes a growing number of faith and community groups, including the NSW.ACT Synod, NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS), National Council of Women NSW, NSW Council of Churches, Ethnic Communities Council NSW, Wayside Chapel, The Salvation Army and many others.

This campaign is focussed on the pursuit of five key reform measures:

• Implementation of universal cashless gambling with harm reduction measures built in

• Power down poker machines between Midnight and 10am

• Fund an independent State-wide self-exclusion register

• Let communities have a say about poker machines licences through their Local Councils

• Greater transparency around poker machine venue data

The presenters of this proposal, the Revs Stu Cameron and Rick Dacey, from Wesley Mission Sydney, noted that “the campaign gained significant traction and momentum leading into the March [NSW] state election … [and] the community appetite for real reform is palpable and continues post-election, confirmed by community research that Wesley Mission commissioned.”

The proposal was adopted by consensus. One way we can join this campaign is for each congregation to make contact with their local NSW state or ACT territory member of parliament, and encourage them to agree to the five key reforms being promoted by this campaign. So it is now over to us all!

There is more information about this campaign at https://www.wesleymission.org.au/get-involved/advocacy/gambling-reform/put-pokies-in-their-place/

Photo of Rev Dr John Squires

Written by Rev Dr John Squires

Uniting Church minister and scholar Rev Dr John Squires retired on 4 December this year after 42 years in active ministry, spanning numerous roles in congregations, a presbytery, and two of the Uniting Church’s theological colleges. An engaged theological reflector on the Uniting Church, John has made many fruitful contributions to the broad life of the UCA including the Assembly.

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