It was exciting to see this story when I got to work this morning. We’ve all heard the horror stories of people who have become addicted to poker machines – people can lose their car, house and even their families.
While there’s always going to be gambling in our society, poker machines have become an easy cash cow for pubs, clubs and, sadly, many community groups. According to some figures in 2003, more than 10% of the world’s poker machines are in Australia. It’s not uncommon to see hotels open at 9am, and I don’t think people are going there solely for breakfast.
It’s not just the users of poker machines who are addicted – governments, hotels and local groups are addicted to the revenue they bring in. This is one of the biggest obstacles to be overcome if we want to remove poker machines, simply because the taxes and levies on poker machines go into government coffers to be used for healthcare, roads, police, etc.
On top of this, many local sports club use poker machines as an income stream and the removal of the machines would have a big impact on the services they provide- something of vital importance when more of us need to get on the playing field.
So what’s the solution? It would be nice to say that we could simply remove pokies and redirect the money spent on community and family support into healthcare, community groups, police, etc but that isn’t a guaranteed solution. There will always be something else to spend money on, or other forms of gambling to take the place of pokies.
The changes proposed today are a good start to easing the problem. Gradual tax increases won’t legislate against poker machines, but they’ll slowly make them less profitable while still giving hotels and clubs time to develop new business and revenue models.
Being a financial institution, we see a lot of people suffering the after-effects of pokie addiction and it can take years to get back on track after spiralling out of control. The sooner we can come up with a real solution, the better it will be for all concerned.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, help is available in all states and territories.