Estimates of the number of people currently being harmed in NSW from their own or another person’s gambling range from over 900,000 to 1.7 million. This staggering public health crisis is barely being addressed.
Wesley Mission CEO and gambling reform advocate Rev Stu Cameron says the time has come for NSW to introduce a system that addresses public health and manages criminal issues.
“For some time, based on the results of Australian and international trials, it has been clear that a mandatory, cashless, limit-setting device would be an effective tool to reduce harm from poker machines,” says Cameron.
“It has become a topic of conversation in homes and offices across the state because most people know someone who has fallen prey to pokies that are designed to addict. And with more than 86,000 poker machines across the state, including in our towns and suburbs, there is little escape.”
Today, Wesley Mission is releasing a discussion paper documenting evidence from academic studies and trial evaluations that recommends features for an effective card design.
“Claims that there is not enough evidence to take immediate action and implement an effective system are likely the result of influence by the gambling industry. That’s why we’ve brought together the research and made this clear design recommendation,” says Cameron.
An effective international example is Norway, where Norsk Tipping implemented mandatory limit setting in 2016 to help empower people to take control of their gambling. Over 90% of people set a limit less than the maximum monthly loss limit of €2,000 (approx. $3,000 AUD), and 90% of customers who hit their limit stopped gambling until their limit reset. 80% of all customers, and 49% of people gambling intensively, have a positive response to the limit system.
Essential design features for an effective system include:
- universal, with no cash payment options
- mandatory but adjustable limits;
- identity linked;
- incapable of using funds sourced from credit;
- includes harm minimisation measures, such as breaks in play and messaging;
- linked to exclusion registers;
- does not allow frictionless spending;
- is not linked to loyalty schemes; and
- has any other features necessary to prevent money laundering, including a card load-up limit of up to $1,000.
Implementing a cashless card is the first of five key policy reforms to Put Pokies In Their Place, the gambling reform election platform from Wesley Mission that is receiving broad support from candidates and concerned community groups alike.
The full discussion paper can be downloaded from Wesley Mission’s website.
Wesley Mission provides practical care and support for more than 130,000 people annually in NSW and across Australia, including help for people experiencing homelessness, local community action groups preventing suicide, and gambling and financial counselling among more than 120 programs. www.wesleymission.org.au
Rev Stu Cameron is available for interview.