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Time for leadership over pokies

February 1, 2008

Time for leadership over pokies

The Problem Gambling Foundation is calling for some real leadership to deal with the social devastation caused by pokie machines.

CEO John Stansfield says that communities will pay dearly for a Government decision to believe the gambling industry rather than those working to clean up the mess.

The latest increase in pokie spending announced by the Department of Internal Affairs yesterday had been predicted by PGF last year but Cabinet preferred to listen to the gambling industry that told them expenditure was going to fall.

This resulted in the gambling levy which funds problem gambling services being reduced at a time it needed to be increased to meet rising demand.

Mr Stansfield says that watching the havoc caused by pokie machines in communities was like seeing a horror movie where the machines took over from the people and nobody seemed able to do anything about it.

"Many local councils are doing everything they can to protect their communities but they are hamstrung by lack of powers," he says.

"Some community and sporting organisations have developed a dependency on pokie funding so this further complicates matters."

The Gambling Act is being reviewed at the moment but the select committee looking at it has taken the unusual view that it will only hear submissions of a very restricted nature.

The committee has also refused to hear submissions from problem gamblers on the basis that what they have to say might be outside the narrow guidelines they have set

Mr Stansfield says his organisation, a number of their clients and several community leaders have complained about this without success.

"Gambling does funny things to democracy," he says.

"The gambling industry has excellent access to lawmakers but their victims are gagged when the one opportunity they will get to address politicians arises.

"I don't know whether this has anything to do with the generous political party donations the industry makes or not.

"Normally select committees take the view that everybody with an interest in a bill should be heard if they want to because the widest possible input leads to the best possible outcome."

ENDS

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