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Gambling on the agenda as NSW election looms

Kate Seselja from Alliance for Gambling Reform

In the lead up to NSW state election this Saturday, Rethink Addiction partners Alliance for Gambling Reform and Uniting hosted ‘Put a brake on poker machine harm: a pre-election forum’.

People from around Australia joined in to hear Kate Seselja, Voices for Gambling Reform Manager at the Alliance for Gambling Reform, and Rev Stu Cameron from Wesley Mission discuss the key issues around gambling reform in NSW, the major parties policies, and what practical solutions can be incorporated to address gambling harm.

Currently, there are around 86,000 electronic gaming machines across NSW pubs and clubs accounting for 65 percent of annual gambling losses in NSW.

Furthermore, according to Rethink Addiction’s and KPMG’s Understanding The Cost Of Addiction report, gambling-related harm cost Australia an estimated $10.7 billion.

“The number of people being harmed for profit is despicable,” Kate said.

Making gambling harm a political issue

NSW was the first state or territory to introduce poker machines in Australia back in 1956. Since their introduction, pokie machines and their harm have never been a major political issue for either major party in a state election, until this year.

“For so long the blame has been put on the individual and no one was looking at the gambling industries products and practices,” Kate said.

“But now that the major parties have acknowledged how harmful the gambling industry is we now need to build on that momentum and address the issue.”

Last year the NSW Crime Commission led an Inquiry into Money Laundering via EGMs in Pubs and Clubs. According to the inquiry;

“Approximately $95 billion was gambled in EGMs in pubs and clubs in NSW in the 2020‐21 financial year. For that same year, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) estimated that the value of the disposable proceeds of crime generated by a high involvement of serious and organised crime for the whole country was $53.7 billion.”

The Commission made eight recommendations following their inquiry which included the introduction of a mandatory cashless gaming system to minimise EGM related money laundering within pubs and clubs.

“The crime report that came out exposing the level of money laundering and crime associated with gambling harm had a big impact on people's perception of gambling harm,” Kate said.

“I also think recent media coverage on gambling has been more frequent and more effective. Instead of just focusing on the tragic stories of people losing all their money, there has been more focus on the harm the gambling industry is causing individuals and communities.”

Sharing your story

During the forum Kate shared with her online audience how she had experienced 15 years of gambling harm.

“I lived 15 years of being so afraid of people finding out that I struggled with gambling. It almost cost me my life.”

“By sharing my story I am helping create new language and new narratives for people to find their own understanding around this issue and create healing pathways for individuals and families. All of this was absent when I was experiencing gambling harm.”

Major parties' policies

Both Labor and Liberal have outlined policies and legislation they will introduce if they are to win this week's election.

Despite the outcome of the election Kate says she wants to see meaningful change introduced.

“This is an addiction by design and Australian consumers of gambling products are profoundly unprotected from this predatory industry. “

“I want this issue taken seriously moving forward and I want consumer protections put in place.”

“It is not a new issue but gambling harm is finally being discussed in a helpful way. We still have a long way to go, and it goes beyond this election, but whatever happens hopefully it will prompt necessary change.”


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