Sydney’s Synod has again called on the NSW Government to implement effective harm minimisation methods to reduce the misery caused by problem gambling.
In a motion moved by the Rev Canon Sandy Grant of Wollongong, those at Synod recognised the devastating impact problem gambling has on many in our communities, especially among those living in lower socioeconomic areas. They urged the NSW Government to “prioritise the recommendations of experts independent of the gambling industries and should favour maximal harm reduction for problem gamblers”.
In 2017-2018, NSW had the highest gambling losses in the country – totalling almost $10 billion – with pokies responsible for almost two thirds of that loss ($6.4 billion). Forty per cent of poker machine profits are generated from problem gamblers.
“Problem gambling bankrupts families, destroys friendships, ruins businesses, torpedoes careers, corrupts sport and more,” said Canon Grant, who has witnessed the anguish caused by people’s inability to repay debt, bailiffs at the door to repossess property, families struggling to feed their children, despair and even suicide.
“Problem gambling bankrupts families, destroys friendships, ruins businesses, torpedoes careers, corrupts sport and more”
Synod recommended a preloaded gambling-limit card, as originally suggested by Commissioner Patricia Bergin in her report on Crown Resorts’ suitability to run a casino, plus a $1 maximum bet limit for poker machines in the state.
Synod also supported efforts to reduce the disproportionate concentration of poker machines in lower socioeconomic areas of NSW. Currently, Fairfield LGA (Local Government Area) is home to the highest net profits from gaming machines in clubs, with more than $308 million recorded in 2020. In the same year, Fairfield LGA had an average unemployment rate of 10.5 per cent – almost double the average unemployment rate in NSW. Clubs in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA followed closely behind, with a total net profit of $284 million in 2020.
Asked Canon Grant: “Why not ask your local state MPs what effective harm minimisation methods, recommended by experts independent of the gambling industries, they will support to reduce the misery caused by problem gambling, especially via the pokies?
“Jesus encouraged us to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind to our banquets, and to care for the poor at our gate… one way we can do it is by the kinds of reforms commended here.”