Council votes unanimously to join anti-pokies’ groups

BRIGHTON Council has joined the National Alliance for Gambling Reform as well as a Tasmanian community coalition campaigning for a curb on poker machines in hotels and clubs.

At its November meeting, the Council voted unanimously to join the two groups, reinforcing its opposition to poker machines in Tasmania’s hotels and clubs because of their adverse impact on the community.

The National Alliance is a newly-formed collaboration of organisations with a shared concern about the harmful impacts of gambling in Australia.  The Alliance is campaigning for reforms to the gambling industry to reduce harm particularly the impacts on more vulnerable communities. The local coalition of community and welfare groups has called for poker machines to be phased out in hotels and clubs and for a reduction in the maximum bet to $1.

Mayor Tony Foster said Brighton Council’s opposition to poker machines was long-standing and it saw its support for and association with the two groups as strengthening its campaign.

Cr Foster said Tasmanians lost almost $200 million on poker machines last financial year, much of it taken from people who could least afford it.

“This is unacceptable and must be addressed,” he said.

“Research recently released by local coalition member Anglicare shows that 84 per cent of Tasmanians believe that the community receives no benefit from poker machines and 50 per cent want them removed from hotels and clubs.

“The State Government must heed this community feeling and move to restrict pokies to the two casinos.

“Undoubtedly, gambling on poker machines is having significant adverse consequences for Tasmanian families, small business and general economic activity, and the community is unhappy.

“The information released in November by Anglicare clearly demonstrates that the Tasmanian community does not believe the State gets any positive return from poker machines in hotels and clubs, and the majority of people want them removed.

“The concern is not just about problem gambling. It is also about money being bled from local communities and this impacts on families, small businesses and the community in general,” he said.

“The reality is that the the adverse impacts of poker machines go considerably beyond problem gambling.

“Where incomes are low, money spent gambling on poker machines can mean that families go without food, medical treatment, heating and other basic, even  vital necessities, as well as subjecting many to domestic violence.

“This community loss is actually recognised by the monopoly operator of poker machines in Tasmania, Federal Hotels,” Cr Foster said.

“As far back as 1993, in his submission to a Legislative Council Inquiry, Federal Hotel’s Director Greg Farrell argued strongly that poker machines should not be allowed in Tasmania’s pubs and clubs, saying that money gambled on gaming machines ‘would represent a redirection of household disposable income and the impact on restaurants, theatres, cinemas and retail would be disastrous’. Mr Farrell then went on to say that ‘direct access to gaming machines in pubs and clubs would have a disastrous effect on the social and special culture of Tasmania’.

“However, Mr Farrell quickly changed his view once his company was given sole rights to poker machines in Tasmania.”

Cr Foster said the social and economic harm resulting from gambling on poker machines was a major problem for Tasmania and it was one the State Government needed to address.

“That is not just the view of Brighton Council, Anglicare and a range of other community organisations, but we now know it is the view of the overwhelming majority of Tasmanians,” he said.

Brighton Council has also called for a new, comprehensive study into the social and economic impacts of poker machines on the Tasmanian community.

“We will use our membership of the Tasmanian and national anti-pokies groups to push the Tasmanian Government to undertake such a study,” Cr Foster said.