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Time to stand up for gambling-addicts

by on October 30, 2012

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We now have stats on gambling in our own state, NSW.

A survey, commissioned by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, has found that most NSW dwellers gambled in the past year. Of those who have, 12.1 per cent were found to be either at low or moderate risk of problem gambling.

Even more concerning, a massive 40,000 people, or 0.8 per cent, were found to actually be ‘problem gamblers’, defined as having suffered negative consequences from gambling including possible loss of control.

This rate was higher than in Britain (0.7 per cent) Sweden (0.3 per cent), or New Zealand (0.4 per cent).

Most disturbing, the rate of problem gambling among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was much higher: 1.7 per cent.

Gambling is like any other addiction, like alcoholism: the person affected loses control of their behaviour and gets sucked into a vortex of compulsion, financial loss, shame and guilt. It often leads to family breakdown. Once hooked, it is not as simple as saying “I won’t do it anymore.’ Addicts tell themselves this all the time. But they’ve lost control, and they need help.

The survey enables us to produce an ‘identikit picture’ of the gambling addict: problem gamblers are most likely to be male, unemployed, single and with an education level below year 10. In other words, some of the poorest and most needy people in our society. Poor on several key measures: relationships, skills and employability, education, social status and self-esteem, and of course income. This is the ‘typical’ gambling-addict.

Problem gamblers and those at moderate risk from gambling were most likely to gamble on poker machines (75 per cent) , horses (61 per cent), while casino tables were a less likely venue (23 per cent). So Pokies are the worst. It’s worth noting that: pokies are the big issue.

Rev. Tim Costello points out that these figures hide the real extent of the damage. He says the Productivity Commission has found that for every problem gambler another five to 10 people, including family members and work colleagues, are affected. ”So that’s 200,000 to 400,000 residents affected by this.”  In NSW alone.

This is a picture of a major, major social problem. One targeting the most vulnerable people in our community. And their families. The are many, many victims of this disease.

Why does the government, which intervenes in so may areas of life, not step in here? Why does it allow the proliferation of gambling venues and licence more and more pokies, since they do the most damage? Because of the bribes. State government taxes the gambling industry, so the more money it steals from the poor the more the government gets. For decades the NSW government has bribed itself to co-operate with this evil.

Here are some questions we should be asking:

1. What will the Anglican Diocese of Sydney say or do about this?

Isn’t it our job to stand with and speak up for the poor and vulnerable, like Jesus did? Now we have the stats in our hands, we can speak from a sure footing. What are we going to say? The local church doesn’t have much of a voice, but this is why the Diocese exists, right? To do things the individual churches can’t do. As a diocese we have a voice. I hope we’re going to use it. A clear message is needed.

Tim Costello has provided one already. He has called on the NSW government to drop its opposition to mandatory precommitment (a system where the gambler decides in advance how much he will spend). ”They should repent,” Mr Costello said. And by ‘they’, he means the government.

We can help our leaders by talking to them about this, encouraging them to speak up. For example, you can email Peter Jensen at     archbishop@sydney.anglican.asn.au

2. What part should the state government play in this?
Let’s not rush to say ‘It’s bad, it should be banned’. There are many things in the world that are bad, but we don’t want government to make laws about them all.  It’s not desirable or feasible for government to ban gambling. People should be left alone to do as they please with their money.
But what about the big businesses that get rich by luring people in, preying on their weaknesses? Is there a role for government to intervene and curb this abuse?
Yes there is. As Costello puts it,
“government exists to protect the most vulnerable, instead of protecting a predatory industry”
Right. The authorities are put there by God to protect the community, and especially those who cannot protect themselves, from those who would harm them. The gambling industry and gambling addicts fall under this category.
Government too often intrudes where it’s not needed. But this is one place where it should intrude. Costello has got it right: Christians should be preaching, not to the gamblers, but to the powers that be about protecting those at risk.
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3. How can our local churches minister to people with gambling addictions? How can we become safe places for these people, places they feel they can come to and not be judged but welcomed and helped? At the moment, I reckon they give us a wide berth. What would it take for us to change this?

From → General

7 Comments
  1. Julia permalink

    we also need to be asking “is it right that television networks can advertise internet gambling on primetime tv?” and what are we/Sydney Anglicans/Christians doing to protest against this trend?

    • Wow, do they do that? Don’t watch TV I’m afraid. That’s scandalous.

      What do you suggest we do?

      • Julia permalink

        maybe you need to watch some every so often to keep a finger on the pulse…channel 9 is the main culprit with ads for sports betting most ad breaks,and during sporting events, and ads for Crown casino that don’t even mention that it is a casino (plug it as a resort that trains people and offers all sorts of great job opportunities). Look up Tom Waterhouse ads on youtube…he is plugging a sports betting service…kind of like the Rivkin Review (giving stockmarket tips back in the day).
        I have no idea what to suggest I’m afraid…we can complain to the advertising watchdog but i doubt that would do much. we can encourage people to boycott the channel…but then it means we can’t watch the cricket…

      • Thanks Julia. Sadly we don’t have TV. I’ll have to rely on people like you to keep me informed!

        I think your boycott idea sounds good. It would only take one motivated person to start a campaign, it could catch on if it’s done well, through the social media. Wouldn’t it be great if an evangelical Christian was the one to do it. Instead of all staying comfy on our backsides…

        But not watching the cricket sounds like a high price to pay. I wouldn’t want to encourage any course of action that involved that level of suffering. 🙂

  2. Hey Jono,

    I totally agree, and become more convinced every time I meet a gambler. Which, in agreement with the stats, is most times I meet anyone around here!

    I think I’m right in saying that our Synod has passed a motion (or whatever you call it) every year for the past few years calling on the government to do something about this problem and making our position clear. I’m not sure what we’re calling them to do, and I’m just assuming it was past. But it’s good to know that our institution is at least doing something.

    Dan

    P.S Good to hear you take up a position of government intervention… 😉

    • Hmm, afraid passing a motion don’t impress me much. What are they actually doing about it?

      As a minimum, I’d be looking for an article in the SMH by one of our big hitters: Andrew Cameron or the Archbish or someone like that. Perhaps there have been backroom chats with pollies, but this needs a public face.

      PS Oh yeah, just love that government interference!

  3. After receiving a pamphlet from the AHA claiming that Tony Burke was hurting community by agreeing to Jullia Gillards reforms.. I wrote to Tony Burke…. stating that he should protect the gamblers and that pubs and clubs were hurting community by allowing people to gamble irresponsibly. I didn’t get a reply, but if enough people in the Canterbury District emailed Tony Burke our concerns and fight against the AHA… Than some change can happen…

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