Poker machine gambling is in the spotlight on the North West Coast as local councils respond to community concern.
A recent meeting of the Burnie City Council has resolved to seek further information and hold a workshop about phasing out poker machines from clubs and hotels. And the Devonport City Council will consider a motion at its next council meeting to ‘give control back to people in our city to say when and where poker machines can be installed’.
Anglicare is one of 58 community organisations calling for poker machines to be phased out of hotels and clubs and left only in casinos.
“Removing poker machines would see local communities thrive,” said Anglicare’s Meg Webb, manager of our Social Action and Research Centre. “It would save lives, boost local businesses and create jobs”.
Burnie is a relatively small local government electorate but each year more than $7 million is taken out of the community by poker machines – almost $500 for each adult in the area.
There are 110 pokies spread across four different venues in Burnie. These venues are located close to shopping centres, workplaces and key services.
Anglicare Community Service Worker, Sue Hayman, said she sees many North West Coasters whose lives have been severely impacted by poker machine gambling.
“It’s not only financial. Poker machine gambling also affects people’s mental health, often resulting in anxiety and depression as well as their ability to work and to maintain healthy relationships,” she said.
“It is important to realise that the psychology behind the design of poker machines is to keep people playing. Many people go to pubs and clubs to relax and ‘escape’ from their problems and then they get hooked,” said Sue.
“Often we see people who have experienced domestic violence, or child abuse, who want to feel ‘normal’ by zoning out on poker machines. They end up regularly not being able to pay their bills or buy food”.
Poker machine gambling is linked to family breakdown, depression, financial hardship, health problems, legal matters, work issues and suicide.
“Research tells us that if poker machines are not easily accessible, people are less likely to use them,” said Meg. “But right now, 40% of poker machine revenue comes from the misfortunes of those with an addiction”.
“By confining poker machines to casinos, like they do in Western Australia, we can help to create happier, healthier communities”.
Each poker machine in Burnie takes on average $64,512 out of the area, about $15,000 more than the local average wage.