On Sunday, Victoria celebrated the grim 30-year anniversary of the introduction of poker machines to the state, with losses estimated at $66 billion. In the same period in New South Wales, losses are estimated at $135 billion, twice that of Victoria.
NSW is home to just under half of Australia’s 200,000 poker machines, and they are easily accessible, with the overwhelming majority in local pubs and clubs.
“NSW was the first state to legalise poker machines in 1956, so we’ve got a 36-year head start and weak public policy that is an invitation to criminals and puts industry profits ahead of people,” says gambling reform advocate and Wesley Mission CEO, Stu Cameron.
“Australians lose $25 billion each year through gambling, and half of the total losses are through poker machines. The problem is worst in NSW, and the Government is letting the industry self-regulate in so many areas, all to the detriment of people in our communities, who are being bled dry by predatory practices.”
Seeking reform to address the significant social harm caused by poker machines has been a long-term issue for Wesley Mission. In 1973, Wesley Mission Superintendent and Lifeline founder, Sir Alan Walker, called clubs “the most dangerous vested interest in Australia” and poker machines “an insidious and serious gambling racket”.
“I expect that in taking a stand, we’ll come up against those vested interests and groups with deep pockets who have effectively captured the state over gambling reform through donations and threats,” says Cameron. “And we know change won’t happen overnight, but Wesley Mission has seen a lot of change in its 210 years, and we’re in it for the long haul.”
Wesley Mission is seeking –
Meaningful action from the Review of The Star
- That the NSW Premier and the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) will commit to adopting the recommendations, particularly those aimed at reducing gambling harm
- NSW Casinos will be required to operate under an independently drafted Responsible Conduct of Gambling code which is revised based on input from non-industry stakeholders and current research. Cultural change will be embedded into the revised code through a standing Lived Experience Accountability Panel
For the NSW Government and NSW Labor to take action with first steps to address industry self-regulation
- Do not sign any further MOUs or equivalent with the gambling industry, particularly Clubs NSW
- To have non-industry stakeholders and people with lived experience participate in the cashless gambling scheme to prevent money laundering by criminals and reduce harm to NSW citizens
“The community is withdrawing the social license that has permitted the gambling industry to set the agenda for reform.
“We’re not anti-gambling; we’re anti-exploitation. We’re sick of scandal-plagued casinos being given chance after chance. We reject the narrative from clubs and hotels that measly community grants and jobs created by gambling rooms are in the community’s best interest, when people are losing their livelihoods to poker machines that create far fewer jobs than the same amount spent on food and beverages. People don’t want their sport saturated with gambling ads and gambling normalised for their children.
“We’re inviting people, businesses and organisations to join us. We know NSW is ready for change.”
Wesley Mission began Australia’s first Gambling Counselling initiative in the late 1980s.
Media interviews: Amanda Bailey | 0429484632 firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Queensland Government Statistician’s Office – Australian Gambling Statistics, 35th and 36th editions: https://www.qgso.qld.gov.au/statistics/theme/society/gambling/australian-gambling-statistics