The Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney has welcomed a key Parliamentary report on gambling and ‘grieves’ that people in NSW have above-average expenditure on gambling.
In a debate led by the Canon Sandy Grant, Senior Minister of St Michael's Cathedral in Wollongong, the Synod was told the state’s gambling expenditure totals $7.15 billion per annum and $2 billion in the Illawarra alone.
Canon Grant compared the rate of problem gambling to those hospitalized in car accidents.
“Even though car accident hospitalization occurs at a rate 5 times lower than problem gambling, we approve all sorts of limits on our roads. Seat belts, speed limits, speed cameras.” he said.
“We need harm minimisation measures recommended by experts independent of vested interests, such as pubs and clubs who will not act against their profit motive, but have dominated the debate. In particular, we need to put air bags and seat belts on poker machines!”
The motion proposed a number of measures to reduce the impact of problem gambling including introducing a $1 maximum bet limit for poker machines and stopping the disproportionate concentration of poker machines in lower socio-economic areas.
“The $1 bet was also proposed by the Federal Parliament’s Select Committees into gambling reform.” Canon Grant said. “Ironically, the original evidence for $1 bets in an Australian context even came from a study funded by the NSW gambling industry, which they now run a mile from.”
There was also a call for gambling venues to develop an intervention scheme to assist problem gamblers.
The motion was amended to include a call for Sydney Anglican affiliated organisations to divest of any investments in any company whose revenue from gambling exceeds either 10% of revenue or $50 million per annum by the end of the year.
Some Synod members wanted stronger measures, such as disinvesting in any company which profited in any way at all from gambling, but the 10 percent limit stands.