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Salvation Army backs pokie industry overhaul


For immediate release

Wellington, Tuesday 9 November, 2010.

Salvation Army backs pokie industry overhaul.

The Salvation Army is urging all politicians to reform the gambling machine sector.

The Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill will be voted on in Parliament tomorrow and is a rare and precious opportunity to minimise the damage caused by pokies, Salvation Army spokesman Major Campbell Roberts says.

Thousands of gamblers addicted to pokies, and their families, seek emergency aid and counselling from The Salvation Army each year.

Tomorrow's conscience vote is just that “ a moral responsibility to ensure that we protect the most vulnerable of our citizens from avoidable poverty and anguish, he says.

Last year, The Salvation Army's Oasis Centres for Problem Gambling helped 3200 problem gamblers with their addiction, a rise of 16 per cent on 2008.

Major Roberts says addiction treatment is the tip of the iceberg. Poorer suburbs are strategically targeted by pokie machine operators and these communities are disproportionately harmed. This plays out in Salvation Army community service centres across the country every day as families seek emergency food aid and counselling. In decile 9 communities, there is one pokie machine for every 75 people compared to one machine for every 465 residents in decile 1 communities.

Major Roberts says the effects of the concentration of pokies in poorer suburbs is born out in the number of families coming to The Salvation Army seeking help as a result of family members' gambling. A screening programme at The Salvation Army's South Auckland centre found 40 per cent of families seeking help were affected by problem gambling.

The Bill will enable communities to reduce the number of pokie machines or even eliminate them completely. It will also put in place more robust harm-minimisation safeguards than currently exist.

The Bill will phase out the often controversial system of pokie trusts and replace it with a low-cost and more transparent way of distributing pokie proceeds through local community representatives. Under the Bill, a greater proportion of gambling proceeds will be returned to the community.

Te Ururoa Flavell's Bill will go some way to reducing the damage we are seeing on a daily basis, Major Roberts says.


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