ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Joint media release: ACT Government gambling reforms a good start but stronger commitment to reduce gambling harm needed

21 August 2018

Joint media release with Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance.

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) and the Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance (CGRA) welcome the ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay’s announcement yesterday to tighten gambling regulations by December as a good start in addressing gambling harm.

ACTCOSS and the CGRA are pleased the ACT Government has agreed to action six of the eight recommendations in the Auditor-General's report into the gaming industry but urges the government that stronger gambling harm regulation is needed to protect consumers of products that are potentially dangerous and are designed to be addictive – particularly the pokies.

ACTCOSS Director Susan Helyar said, “For too long have we blamed individuals who have developed a gambling addiction without understanding the addictive power of these machines or putting in place effective consumer protection measures. Industry-led funding programs to improve prevention and recovery programs lack rigour and involve too many conflicts of interest.”

The CGRA notes that in 2014-15 alone, ACT residents lost $167 million on the pokies, with 44% of these losses coming from people experiencing gambling harm. The Alliance continues to call on the ACT Government to overhaul its poker machine community contributions scheme, including making decisions about contributions independent of Canberra’s clubs. Alliance Co-Chair Rebecca Vassarotti says decisions on what should be funded through the community contributions scheme should be put in the hands of an independent group with expertise in public health so a bigger share of the funds could be directed to the harms of poker machine gambling and increasing the social benefits flowing from pokies profits.

Ms Vassarotti added, “Attorney-General Ramsay’s announcement shows the government has a clear insight into the effects of gambling harm on individuals and families in Canberra. This is a good start. Now we need that backed up with gambling harm prevention measures that not only better support people impacted by gambling harm, but appropriately regulates the machines that cause harm.”

The Alliance continues to call for strong action to reduce other gambling harms including the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment for all venues, $1 bet limits on all machines, aligning the rules on EFTPOS machines with ATMs and reducing the number of pokies by half within a decade. Alliance members particularly welcome today’s news report that details the ACT Government’s pokie surrender scheme. The scheme aims to cut the number of pokies in Canberra to 4000. “We look forward to hearing further details on the scheme”, Ms Vassarotti said.

ACTCOSS and the Alliance support the government’s commitment to consult further with the gambling industry, experts and community representatives throughout September and encourage others to support the Alliance’s gambling harm reform campaign.

Ms Vassarotti concluded, “We believe there is strong community support for real change regarding how we regulate pokies. We are inviting community organisations and individuals to join the Alliance and be part of the work to achieve change and protect Canberra citizens.”

People can sign up to support the work of the Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance via Facebook at www.facebook.com/CanberraGamblingReformAlliance/ 

For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, ACTCOSS on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200;

Rebecca Vassarotti, Co-Chair, Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance on 0408 668 963.