The unfortunate story of an Australian gambling addict, Gary Van Duinen, who committed suicide, has once again raised some questions about the actual costs of poker machines.
The highly addictive nature of pokies has been among the most discussed topics in terms of constantly increasing rates of problem gambling in the country, and more specifically, in New South Wales (NSW).
The state of NSW has registered a record-high in annual losses estimated to AU$7 billion on the currently existing 95,000 poker machines. Moreover, the recent budget of the state projects a 17% increase in the pokies’ tax revenue over the upcoming four years. The massive losses generated in the gambling sector, however, have raised analysts’ concerns that more families are experiencing the hard blow of gambling-related harm. The latter includes not only financial difficulties which occur in gambling addicts’ families but also relationship breakdown, as well as negative effects of gambling in terms of physical and mental health.
According to experts, the real problem is not problem gamblers, but local legislators who have been keener on serving more in favour of the gambling industry, rather than in favour of local residents.
NSW Political Parties Lobby in Favour of Pokies
For the time being, the state of New South Wales has seen the most dangerous features of poker machines, as well as the easiest approval process of such forms of gambling in Australia. Local note-accepting pokies take up to AU$7,500, in comparison to such machines in Queensland take up to AU$100, while pokies in South Australia accept coins only.
The maximum bet allowed on pokies in New South Wales amounts to AU$10, which is two times bigger than the maximum bet of AU$5 allowed on pokies in other Australian states, and tenfold the amount of the limit recommended by the local Productivity Commission.
On the other hand, clubs in NSW feature some of the lowest taxes on poker machines nationwide. The machines are often promoted as the major donor of non-profit organisations which are aimed at taking care of local communities through various services. However, the problem with the poor governance of the sector and political lobby backing the machines remains.
According to recent research carried out in the state of Victoria, 7 out of 10 people who play pokies are facing gambling-related harm. The scale of the problem is even bigger in the NSW, with anti-gambling campaigners calling for the Government to do something about the constantly increasing number of problem gamblers. As mentioned above, the worst thing about the problem is the fact that despite charity organisations and opponents of poker machines, there is a serious back-up for local pokies from local politicians.
Gambling-related harm, however, must be reduced, for the good of the entire community. Otherwise, gambling addiction will continue to spread among NSW residents and affect their families, relationships, jobs and physical and mental health.