House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Private Members’ Business

Electronic Gaming Machines

7:41 pm

Photo of Nick ChampionNick Champion (Wakefield, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I will just say that I think the member for Braddon gave a very moving speech on the previous motion and does this House proud when he shows such passion for an issue.

In addressing the issues around addiction to electronic gambling machines and what we do about it, a problem that I have talked about many times, the first place we have to start is to ask: is there a problem? There are many ways of answering that question. One place you can go is the key points of the draft report by the Productivity Commission, which talk about the numbers of gamblers, the percentages, the ratios and all the rest of it. Or you can go to some of the headlines that have been around, like the one in the Herald Sun on 26 January 2010 which reported that ‘Victorians spend $1.36 bil in six months on pokies’. Or there is the article from the Daily Mercury on 18 January 2010 titled ‘Mackay blows $60.8m on pokies’, or an article from 23 January 2010 titled ‘Wollongong’s $131m pokie habit’, or an article from the Northern Star on 22 February this year where the headline is ‘Rise in women addicted to pokies’. There are a lot of headlines, a lot of statistics and a lot of ratios which talk about the problem.

I was looking on the internet and, interestingly enough, in That’s Life, which is a popular magazine which tells people’s stories, there is an article about Pat Burns, 68, of Mitcham, Victoria. She talks about how her son died and then about how a pokies addiction developed as a result of that. There are a couple of paragraphs that I think are fitting. She says:

Sitting in front of the machine, relief washed through me. All I had to think about was hitting the buttons. Before long, I was out of money, so I went back for another $50. Then another.

Later I realised I’d put through a couple of hundred dollars. It’s just a bit of fun, I reasoned.

However, over the next few months, I found myself at the club more and more. The pokies were proving irresistible.

That’s my pay for the week gone, I thought at the ATM one night. But I dismissed it, shuffling back to my favourite machine.

Pat Burns in this article goes through her journey with poker machines. She talks about how, in the end, she wound up spending about $60,000 over five years. Eventually she sought help and got it. She talks about her struggles in beating the addiction. She says:

Over the next two years I clawed my way out of debt, scrimping and sacrificing to get back in the black. But the lure of pokies remained. Especially on the anniversaries of Darren and Mum’s deaths. But with the help of David—

her husband—

and Vera—

her counsellor—

I got through it.

We can see from these personal testimonies that often people have problems when they go into poker machine venues. Often they are dealing with grief, depression or some other issue. It starts out very innocently, as a bit of escapism through gambling on these machines, but what eventually happens is a very bad addiction for some individuals.

The commission’s recommendation, which I talk about in this motion, will undoubtedly help people. It will help people in a couple of different ways. Firstly, it will stop them losing so much money. Reducing bet limits from $10 a spin to $1 a spin will ultimately lower the amount of money that can be gambled per hour, and I think that will lower the amount of damage people can do while they are in the thrall of these machines. Likewise, I think the provision for self-exclusion through mandatory self-exclusion systems can do a great deal of help for those recovering from gambling addictions, for those people who realise they have a problem and who want to seek help. It helps them deal with the irresistible lure of these machines. I have spoken about this many times before. These machines are just so addictive. It is very hard to get off them once you are on them and it is very, very easy to develop a problem, even though that problem might be overlaid by other personal problems. I commend this motion to the House. I hope to see a positive response from the government.


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