Pokie rooms have reopened in South Australia after more than three months, but many people are not too happy about it. A coalition of gambling reform advocates say the SA Government missed a golden opportunity to keep poker gaming floors shut.
They claim that the three-month lockdown that also affected casinos, pubs, and gaming clubs was an ideal chance to find a terminal solution for the huge gambling problem that Australians currently deal with. Unfortunately, according to the protestors, the South Australian Government did little to find a way to help problem gamblers in this time.
Reformed Gamblers are Fuming
Shonica Guy, a spokesperson for the coalition, said that instead of wasting money on Electronic Gaming Machines, Australians should focus on reviving the local economy. She proposes that people spend their money in local businesses instead of throwing them down the drain at the pokies.
Ms Guy, who is a reformed gambler herself, says that she lost good 14 years of her life on the pokies. Her sentiments are shared by most gambling reform advocates, the majority of which have also had a gambling problem in the past.
Another protestor, Mr Barry, said that he lost close to $200,000 over 10 years. He started gambling obsessively when his wife died and would often spend three to four hours gambling each night in his local pokie room.
For him, pokies were a way of running away from his real problems and zoning in only on the machine in front of him. He openly admits that he would play until he lost all of his money for the night, but would come back again the next day.
Authorities Claim to be Addressing the Issue
It is obvious that gambling reform advocates feel quite strongly about this issue because they have been personally affected by it. However, SA authorities, and Attorney-General Vickie Chapman in particular, say that this anger shouldn’t be directed towards the Government as they have done quite a lot to find a solution for the problem.
Chapman also used the opportunity to remind protestors that the hotel and casino industry are both legal businesses and that they employ more than 26,000 people.
She says that all Australian gaming venues meet some stringent legal requirement, pay their taxes, and have to pay their employees at the end of the month too. According to her, closing these venues down out of the blue will do irreparable damage to the industry and the people employed in it.
She goes on to say that the Government has, in fact, done quite a lot to address this issue. Chapman says that there are lots of safeguards that ensure that problem gamblers’ actions are under greater scrutiny than ever before.
One of these safeguards that she mentions is the reform that bans problem gamblers from venues indefinitely. Another one is the Automatic Risk Monitoring program. It helps gaming room staff to successfully identify potential problem gamblers before the problem they have exacerbates.
Some of the other steps that the Government’s reform package will include stipulate that:
- The amount of EFTPOS funds that players can transfer will be limited in each venue.
- Banknote-accepting machines will be fitted with acceptors that will limit the amount of money a player can deposit.
- The Gamblers Rehabilitation Fund will receive additional $1 million each year.
One thing that the Government definitely isn’t considering at the moment, though, is limiting the hours that gamblers spend on a machine. Incidentally, this is also one of the main issues that advocates want to see addressed as soon as possible.
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