Gambling continues to be a key topic of conversation in the Territory and while this is a good thing, it’s time to translate the talk into action.
We know that in order to do this, Governments need to be confident that bold action will be supported by the community. With all this recent debate, there has been opposing views about what the community actually thinks about these issues. While advocates such as myself argue the community has had enough mopping up the problems caused by gambling and wants strong reform, industry advocates suggest stricter rules are akin to a nanny state and won’t be supported by the community.
As such, the Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance thought it was time to ask the community directly what they really think about the impact of gambling on poker machines in the community, and what sort of reforms they would support in responding to any issues. In late July, Anglicare NSW South and ACT in partnership with the Alliance commissioned a ReachTEL survey to get a better understanding of what the community really thinks should be done with the rules for poker machines.
The results were unequivocal. Across gender lines, age and voting intentions, this survey confirms the view that the Canberra community believes that gambling on poker machines causes more harm than good and supports strong reforms to reduce this harm.
717 Canberrans were quizzed on their views about the pokies. Over 70% of Canberrans believe that gambling on poker machine causes more harm than good. Some of the other key findings of the survey included the following:
- The reform measure that had the strongest level of community support was the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment prior to playing the machines (Over 80% support).
- Canberrans want a crackdown on the loophole that allows cash to be accessed using EFTPOS machines in poker machine venues: 78% of people want to see access to cash in venues limited to $250 per card per day.
- There is a wide-ranging support for changes to make poker machines less harmful such as maximum $1 bets (78%).
- Nearly 43 percent of Canberrans want a “large decrease” in poker machine numbers with only 8 percent supporting an increase.
- Almost three quarters of respondents supported an independent body to administer community contributions generated by poker machine revenue.
These findings put the major parties on notice that their community expects to see strong reform in this area. The community accepts that legislative responses are required rather than weak self-regulation and the types of reforms called for by the Alliance are modest responses to a significant issue.
It is time to introduce legislative proposals that reduce the level of harm being caused by poker machines. It is time to move beyond industry affiliation and introduce measures that are based on evidence and we know will work. It is time to move beyond partisan politics and work together to protect the community and regulate products that are known to cause harm.
What do you think needs to be done to reduce the harm caused by the pokies?
Rebecca Vassarotti is the co-chair of the Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance and is a former board member of the Gambling and Racing Commission. She is a member of the ACT Greens and ran as a candidate in the last ACT Territory Election