Today’s announcement that Clubs NSW are partnering with the Salvation Army to trial a “clubs chaplains” scheme is just the latest in a long line of bandaid solutions put forward by Australia’s poker machine industry.

In case you missed it, the concept calls for uniformed Salvation Army chaplains to be stationed in gaming rooms, for four days a week, to offer guidance and support to problem gamblers. There will be a 12 month trial at Mingara Recreational Club.

Clubs NSW boss Anthony Ball (who also heads Clubs Australia) talked up the scheme in the usual way. “That is a vital first step on the path to repair for these people,” he said. “Giving somebody a card to play, limiting them to $1 at a time, that’s not the way you help someone with a problem.”

Think about that. And think about the clubs industry’s previous ideas, including more counselling, stronger self-exclusion and the ability for family members to have problem gamblers banned from clubs.

All of these have one thing in common. They all involve picking up the pieces after gambling addiction has taken hold.

It’s the clubs mantra: let the problem develop, get the money spent and the damage inflicted, and then say “Oh no, you have a problem. Exclude yourself. And here’s someone you can talk to.”

Ball said it himself. “Someone with a problem.” Ever since poker machine reform became a national issue they have driven this concept, that it’s all about people with problems. They continue to point the finger at people, and away from themselves.

They’re wrong.

It’s not just about people with problems, but the generations of gamblers to come. People who have never played a poker machine but will become a footnote in the carnage that they wreak on Australian society.

Consider this.

Over the next 12 months, over a quarter of a million Australian teenagers will turn 18. My eldest daughter is one of them; some of your children may be too. Apprentices, students, trainees, employees… our daughters and sons. Teenagers who have never played a poker machine. Young adults who don’t have a gambling problem.

Based on the statistics for poker machine players and problem/major risk gambling in Australia, 28% of these fresh young adults will become poker machine players. That’s over 74,000 new gamblers in the next 12 months, playing the pokies at least once a year.

3.36% will become regular poker machine players. That’s almost 9,000 18-year-olds, gambling on poker machines on a regular basis. Once a fortnight, once a week… maybe more.

And 1.40% will become problematic, or major risk, poker machine players. That’s 3,715 young adults who will develop gambling problems associated with poker machines, every year. They will lose thousands of dollars, experience incredible pain and hardship, depression, anxiety and guilt. Their families and friends will suffer along with them.

This isn’t conjecture. It’s a statistical certainty.

And the clubs industry wants us to rest easy in the knowledge that when these young adults, our children, our friends’ children, hit the wall… there’ll be a chaplain they can talk to.

My answer to Anthony Ball’s pithy throwaway lines about gambling cards and bet limits is unprintable. I have the utmost contempt for him and the industry he represents, because they are willing to let our kids, year after year, walk into the meat grinder just so their clubs can keep humming along.

Poker machine reform is not just about people with problems; more than anything it’s about the countless thousands of people who don’t have problems… yet. But they will. The industry demands it.

No, Anthony Ball, you’ve got it wrong. Giving somebody a card to play, limiting them to $1 at a time… that’s the way you help prevent someone from developing a problem.

It’s a tragedy that the clubs industry is willing to write off 3,715 young lives every year. Having been through poker machine addiction, having seen what it did to me and those who were a part of my life, I hope like hell that my kids aren’t amongst them.

And I hope yours aren’t too.

The above figures are sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (population) and the Productivity Commission (gambling).


5 Responses

  1. Shonica says:

    Great article Tom. keep up the good work 🙂

  2. Stephanie says:

    The statistics are a worry…

  3. Familyman says:

    yeah yeah yeah..so what’s gillard and her Labor owned poker machine clubs in Canberra going to do about it. We know all the stats and suffering these venues are doing to families. Gilard has had two years to get her legislation written up but ziltch has been done except lame excuses by her and her lackies. I think the silence by Juliar and her MP’s says it all. My view is she is putting this off for ever and therefore I regret having to muster all the support at my disposal to unseat this government that has no right to be there as the election promise to do MPC was what got them into office. They are not rightfully the government as they broke thier agreement with Wilkie and THROWN THE EXHAUSTIVE INDEPENDANT PRODUCTIVITY cOMMISSION REPORT INTO THE GARBAGE BIN. When I write into comment in newspapers or other media in future I am going to be against her. Do I want Abbott ..hell no but please tell me what is the difference between her and him. She got in only because of Wilkie then kicked him out the door and has dumped MPC and Abbott is in the pocket of the gambling operators just like her so why should she be PM ? How is she any different to scumbag Abbott?If Abbott was PM now how would he be any different to her so why is she rewarded with the hat of PM?
    PS good article Tom I am just letting my angst out above but am serious …….If this spring session of parliament does not include MPC I am not going to be sucked along by Labor past that point. The evidence is the realty confirming people are suiciding, kids are going hungry and homelessness is increasing because of poker machines. She is not that big an ignoramus to know it nor are her gang of MP’s so why beat around the bush and pretend she is the Holy Grail? Proof is in the pudding not words that any one can graft and put out there. Juliar .I never thought I would see myself write that but there you go!!!!!

  4. Familyman says:

    The Carbon tax she promised never to impose and the Mandatory Pre Committmnent scheme she swore she would put in. Something is definately wrong here….have I missed some thing? Fool me once shame on you..fool me twice shame on me.I’m not sticking around being quiet to much longer to see what fool I am when she fools every one three times.

  5. cyenne says:


    Can I suggest you give the politics a rest, at least on these comments pages? There is no political will in Canberra to implement any kind of real reform, on either side of the political fence.

    To be honest, while I have been dismayed & angered by what has happened with Gillard & the ALP, I have been even more disappointed and disgusted with Abbott and his LNP. He quickly aligned himself with the clubs industry and has no intention of pursuing anything worth a damn.

    But more importantly as far as this blog is concerned, the comments guidelines are “brief” and “on topic, with regards to the current article”.

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