The poorer for pokies

A rep0rt by Chloe Booker in The Age (17th July 2022) states that Victorians have gambled – and lost – $66 billion on pokies in 30 years, since electronic slot machines were introduced in the state. On this day 30 years ago, 10,000 pokie machines were launched in Victoria. There are now 30,000, mostly in suburban pubs and clubs.

While the machines are largely confined to casinos in the rest of the world, Australia has more than 75% of the world’s pub and club pokies. Australia is home to less than half a per cent of the world’s population, but has 18% of its pokies, with 80% of these machines found outside casinos.

Tim Costello from the Alliance for Gambling Reform said, “While we shake our heads in disbelief at America’s guns, the rest of the world shakes their heads in disbelief that we’ve allowed this”.

Costello said politicians were too addicted to pokie donations and taxes to act. Gambling taxes delivered $1.6 billion to Victoria’s coffers last year, all of which goes into a hospital and charities fund. This includes $665 million from pubs and clubs pokies revenue, not including more than 2600 machines at Melbourne’s Crown Casino.

Gambling has been aligned with entertainment, and harmless fun, while at the same time it destroys so many individuals, families and communities. ‘Gamble responsibly’ serves to shift the blame, and shame, onto the individual, whereas the industry itself needs reform to protect the vulnerable.

Dr Mark Zirnsak is Chair of the Victorian Interchurch Gambling Taskforce. The 2020 video interview (see link below) was a contribution to the ECCV*’s Gambling Harm Prevention Project to proactively raise awareness of gambling harm among culturally diverse communities. Much of what Mark shares is also true in the general community.
(* The Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria (ECCV) is an independent, member-based peak body representing the migrant and refugee communities in Victoria).

Many of the VCC Member Churches have made statements about gambling and the need for action on pokies reform. Below are two letter-writing campaigns by the Uniting Church – one on TV advertising for gambling on SBS, and one on Crown Casino.