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Poker machine card will become a useful budgeting tool

December 8, 2023
Illustration of a hand holding a card with the words Simple as written on it.

The introduction of a universal pre-commitment card will be a useful budgeting tool for all Tasmanians who use poker machines.

Anglicare Tasmania supports the Tasmanian Government’s commitment to introducing the card by December 2024 and we are looking forward to hearing more detail about how it will work.

Social Action and Research Centre Coordinator Mary Bennett says the system has potential to ‘flip the script’ on stories heard every day by frontline workers in Anglicare’s Gamblers Help and financial counselling programs.

“The card will give people control over how much they are prepared to lose,” she said. “If you want to lose more than $500 a day, or $5,000 a month or $5,000 a year, you must be able to show that you can afford these losses without financial stress. This makes it a useful budgeting tool for anyone who uses poker machine cards – particularly in the midst of a national cost of living crisis.

“The Simple As report released in September outlines what we know already – that harms from poker machines are increasing and a card has the potential to reduce these serious harms without affecting people who gamble recreationally.”

Tasmanians lose half a million dollars a day in poker machines, and $189.6 million was lost by Tasmanians in poker machines in 2022-23.

“This money has to come from somewhere,” Mary explained.  “It comes from household budgets, from friends and family members and other businesses.

“This is money that could be spent instead in small businesses in their local community – with particular benefits for the socially disadvantaged areas in which most of the poker machines are located.”

A Gamblers Help practitioner’s perspective

Tracie is a southern-Tasmanian based practitioner with Anglicare’s Gamblers Help service. Part of her role is raising awareness that gambling is an activity that is highly addictive, easy to access and difficult to stop.

Tracie works alongside Anglicare’s financial counselling team to provide wrap-around support and practical advice to people who are often reluctant to reach out for assistance.

“I believe there is more stigma attached to gambling addiction than other types of addiction, such as drugs and alcohol,” Tracie says. “I see huge flow-on effects to marriages, family relationships and other personal relationships. Gambling takes up an immense amount of time. It’s a mental health illness and it can creep up on you.”

She has seen people embezzle money from their employer to pay for their gambling habit and end up in the justice system. Her background in criminology informs the support she provides to people as part of Anglicare’s prison outreach service. She supports people to get their financial matters under control in preparation for their release from prison and afterwards.

Tracie says that around 70 per cent of the people who gamble who she works with are addicted to poker machines.

“Anglicare estimates that for every person who gambles on a poker machine there are 57,000 other Tasmanians who are adversely affected by this activity. Personally, I think this figure is probably conservative,” she said.

 I think we need to know more about the motivations behind people’s gambling. This will help us to understand why it can be so difficult to manage. The people I work with come from all walks of life and income levels.  Sometimes people may bring in a high salary, but often have nothing to show for it because of their long-term gambling addiction.”

“I am really looking forward to seeing more detail about the government’s plan for a universal poker machine card, and so are the people I work with. If it can give people an opportunity to find other things to spend their money and time on it will be a good start.

 More information:

Anglicare’s Gamblers Help service – it’s free and confidential.

SARC research and reports – The poker machine card. Simple as.  and What’s the real cost?

How to tell your local Member of Parliament that you support the universal poker machine card.

Connect with an Anglicare Tasmania financial counsellor.

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