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MEDIA RELEASE: Listening to the people

Anglicare has welcomed the Labor Party’s decision to support the removal of poker machines from hotels and clubs. 

“We are pleased to see politicians catching up with community sentiment,” said Anglicare’s Meg Webb. Manager of the Social Action and Research Centre. “Labor has responded to the clear vision of Tasmanians who want thriving local neighbourhoods free of poker machines”.

“Labor took the time to consult and has developed a policy that’s in the public interest,” said Ms Webb. “They examined the evidence, listened to local communities and have made the right choice on this issue”.

Both Labor and the Greens now support the removal of poker machines from clubs and hotels.  “And the opportunity is still there for the Liberal Government to reconsider its policy,” said Ms Webb. “In the lead up to a state election, all candidates will keep hearing from Tasmanians unhappy about the prevalence of poker machines. People are uncomfortable with the fact that poker machines take millions of dollars from people with an addiction. Tasmanians are calling for a change that genuinely reduces the harm”.

Two new studies from Victoria show that even people regarded as ‘low risk’ or ‘moderate risk’ gamblers experience harm from poker machines. They found the extent of harm by people at ‘low risk’ is similar to living with a moderate anxiety disorder. For ‘moderate risk’ gamblers the harm is similar to having an alcohol use disorder. The new studies, released by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, highlight the high cost to the community of gambling.

Poker machine gambling is linked to family breakdown, financial hardship, crime, health problems, work issues and suicide. For every person harmed by gambling, seven other people are also affected.

“The easy accessibility of poker machines is a major problem, which is why they need to be out of towns and suburbs and confined to casinos,” said Ms Webb. Currently, poker machines are concentrated in low socio-economic areas. “Research tells us that if poker machines are not easily accessible, people are less likely to use them,” said Ms Webb.

Modelling has shown that removing poker machines from hotels and clubs would also have economic benefits for Tasmania, with millions of dollars remaining in regional areas and re-directed into the local economy. At present, most of the money lost to poker machines leaves Tasmania, going interstate via poker machine leases or to private shareholders.

“Behind us is public policy made in the interests of a few and at a cost to too many,” said Ms Webb. “Ahead of us is the opportunity for a change that will contribute to healthier and more prosperous local communities”.