Problem Gamblers

There is no question that approximately 40% of people who regularly play the pokies are problem gamblers. Addiction is one way many people cope with disappointment, loss and loneliness. It’s not unusual to see an older cross section of the community regularly visit pokies outlets. It’s easy to denigrate and dismiss people with a gambling addiction for “a problem of their own making”. The damage caused by gamblers is akin to the consequences of throwing a rock into a pool. The ripples that are caused continue long after the rock has disappeared from sight.

The problem is compounded by the fact governments, especially at the State level, are complicit in the problem. The Victorian Labor government has given Victorian poker machine pubs and clubs a first division tattslotto dividend. Licensed venues have had their licences extended from 10 to 20 years. In an attempt to limit community concerns the state government has imposed a 25 year freeze on the 23,372 poker machines which are currently in pubs and clubs. That’s one poker machine for every 200 men, women and children in Victoria. This freeze does not include the 2,500 poker machines at Melbourne’s Crown Casino.

State governments have become addicted to the revenue they raise from poker machines. The damage done to the community both in human and financial terms far outweighs any financial gains made by state governments. The biggest losers continue to be those people whose lives are ruined by their gambling addiction. Poker machines are insidious in the way they are programmed to exploit human weaknesses. The great majority of problem gamblers have significant personal and psychiatric issues that range from loneliness to depression to florid psychosis. Gambling is not the central issue. The central issue is the normalising of behaviour in the community that has a profoundly negative impact on individuals, families and communities. Giving commercial organisations whose major responsibility is to create ever increasing profits for their major shareholders carte blanche to prey on people’s weaknesses to fatten their purse is an abrogation of a state government’s responsibility.

Legislation could be passed at the State and Federal level which could greatly reduce the damage caused by gambling, especially poker machines. The Victorian government quietly acquiescing to the poker machine lobbies’ demands is something that should not be occurring. Everyone is aware of the damage caused by gambling, especially poker machines. Instead of keeping over 25,000 poker machines humming in Victoria, the state government could have put the issue of problem gambling on the parliamentary agenda. until this industry is forced to pay for the damage it causes, it will continue to cause significant community distress and damage that the community will eventually be forced to pay.

Dr. Joseph Toscano

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