More pokies should be a wake up call

Published: Thu 1 Nov 2007 02:06 PM
More pokies should be a wake up call
The latest statistics on pokie machines should be a wake up call for the Government says the Problem Gambling Foundation.
Figures released by the Department of Internal Affairs yesterday show the number of pokie machines has increased for the first time since 2003 and the amount of money lost on them has risen for the second consecutive quarter.
Problem Gambling Foundation CEO John Stansfield says the Government is being fed a constant stream of misinformation by the gambling industry.
He says the gambling industry continues to downplay the harm being done by pokies and the Government seems to believe them rather than the hard evidence gathered by its own departments.
"Communities all over the country are showing their concern at local government gambling policy hearings.
'Organisations like ours that deal with the fallout on a daily basis provide evidence of the harm that is being done and the Department of Internal Affairs produces figures generated by their electronic monitoring system.
"This information all points to excessive and preventable damage to families being caused by pokies.
"Yet the interests of the wealthy and powerful gambling operators seem to be the priority in Government policy making
"What is going on here?"
Mr Stansfield says that it will take some time before the latest increases flow through and more people seek treatment for gambling problems and that most people don't get help at all.
"The gambling industry gets away with a lot because of the shame associated with problem gambling.
"Less than 10% of problem gamblers seek treatment.
"Pokie machines are sneaky. They capture people and destroy their lives and those of others who are close to them. The machines leave the victim feeling it was their own fault and often they feel deeply ashamed.
"The machine owners are left free to move on to the next victim."
Mr Stansfield says it must be very frustrating for City Councils like Christchurch and Auckland that are genuinely concerned at the damage pokies are doing but are able to do very little to control them.
"Pokie bars have lifetime consents. Many councils would like to protect their communities from further harm but have limited powers.
"Both the Auckland and Christchurch City Councils are doing everything they can to rein in these predators but are still seeing the amount of money dragged out of the poorest people in their communities increased."
Mr Stansfield says that the Gambling Act is being reviewed at present and the Government is being presented with a golden opportunity to listen to the pleas of ordinary citizens.
"Ï would like to think that what communities want will carry some weight in Government considerations," he says.

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