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Pokie revenue is “dirty money”

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“Gamblers have tipped more than $50 billion into Victoria’s poker machines since their 1992 introduction,” trumpets today’s Herald Sun in a strong front-page story.

The headline figure is rightly shocking. But it also fails to convey the true cost of poker machines in Victoria, because this cost cannot be measured in dollars alone. It’s measured in broken families, lost jobs, squandered savings, homelessness and entrenched disadvantage.

To steal a phrase from the Alliance for Gambling Reform: “You don’t ‘play the pokies’, the pokies play you”. Poker machines are designed to take your money.

That’s their only function.

We also know poker machines are clustered in Victoria’s poorer areas. Why might this be? It’s because they prey on people who are already vulnerable and disadvantaged.

The lure of a ‘big win’ can be too much for somebody struggling to make ends meet, or who may already be facing a financial crisis or dealing with addictive tendencies.

Losses are chased, lies are told, savings are raided and houses are mortgaged. And when that ‘big win’ never comes, the result is devastating.

The clubs lobby argues that much of the money pumped into poker machines is returned to the community through sporting organisations, facility upgrades and grant schemes. This may be true. But the “community benefits” of poker machines don’t come close to making up for the damage they cause.

 

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Generating revenue though misfortune is not a moral or sustainable path.

 

Pubs, clubs —and, yes, the governments themselves— must reconsider the amount of money it makes from poker machines.

The revenue might be dazzling and addictive, but it’s dirty money. Its money built on misery.

Generating revenue though misfortune is not a moral or sustainable path.

VCOSS therefore supports the work of the Alliance for Gambling Reform on a national level, as it campaigns for:

  • Capping bets at $1, and losses to $120 per hour.
  • A ban on sports betting advertising during kids TV.
  • The establishment of a Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform to build on existing knowledge of the problems and solutions.

— Emma King.

 


Image: Dennis Yang/CC