Time to cut our addiction to pokie money.
The Salvation Army is calling on community and sporting groups to reject funding that comes from communities that can least afford to finance them.
It is estimated 40 per cent of the gambling spend in New Zealand comes from the pockets of problem gamblers, and that two-thirds of these people live in the most deprived neighbourhoods. Pokie machines have a higher concentration in low-income areas, profiting off the backs of the country’s most vulnerable people, says Captain Gerry Walker, head of Salvation Army Addiction Services, which includes the Oasis Centres for Problem Gambling.
“It’s reasonable to say money that should be providing food, clothing and healthcare for poor children is going to sports and community groups via gaming machine trusts,” he says.
In poorer areas, the ratio of pokies to people is one to 75, compared with one to 465 in wealthy communities.
“The intention is not to shame community organisations because many of the recipients do highly valuable work in a tough funding environment,” Captain Walker says. “But Gamblefree Day is a good opportunity to look at the ethics around accepting money from gaming trusts and to look at alternative funding.”
While the gaming industry says the tax and the grants it is required to pay to community groups by law cover any social damage resulting from problem gambling, the downstream costs of gambling-related crime, poverty, poor health and the cost to employers are not quantified, he says.
“And its worth remembering that those communities that contribute the most to community funding via gaming trusts and suffer the greatest harm from gambling do not get the most funds back,” Captain Walker says.
Like a number of charities, The Salvation Army felt it could no longer accept grants sourced from gambling as evidence of the social damage began to mount-up.
In 2008, it decided to turn its back on grants derived from gambling that helped finance its community work following an increase in people seeking emergency aid as a result of family members’ gambling.
Salvation Army head of fundraising Major Robbie Ross says a good deal of effort was needed to make up the funding reduction but the shortfall was recouped and there have been a range of wider benefits.
He says increasing public support, as a result of the funding policy change, and new corporate sponsorship made up the funding shortfall and created a new wave of supporters.
“We received a good deal of moral and financial backing from the public and companies as a result of our decision, but having to get out and talk to people to a greater degree had the spinoff of greatly raising the profile of The Salvation Army’s work in the community,” Major Ross says.
Issued on the Authority of Commissioner Donald Bell (Territorial Commander) The Salvation Army, New Zealand Fiji & Tonga Territory