A Response To ACT Liberal MLA Mark Parton (guest post)

Mark Parton is no stranger to stirring up trouble. As the ACT Liberal’s spokesman for gambling and racing, Parton recently compared problem gambling to chocolate addiction. He then went on to film himself walking from pokies venues to ATMs in a half-baked attempt to prove that EFTPOS restrictions in pokies venues were a waste of time.

Parton’s antics have angered many who have experienced the harm of poker machine addiction, as well as those who are actively fighting for gambling reform; one such man is Leigh Mason. Leigh has written to the Canberra Times regarding Parton and two articles they have recently published about him (one of them, in fact, written by Parton), and he asked me if I would consider publishing his article on my blog.

I was more than happy to. I count Leigh as a friend and fellow advocate and I have the utmost respect for him and his story. You can follow Leigh on Twitter at @_enough_said.

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I am the current Chairperson of the Gambling Impact Society NSW Inc. (GIS NSW), an Alliance for Gambling Reform member organisation.
I write to you in relation the two articles involving commentary from Mark Parton.
Refer:
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/liberal-mla-mark-parton-shares-his-story-of-gambling-addiction-20170707-gx72i7.html
&
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/mark-parton-times-walk-from-clubs-to-atms-to-prove-eftpos-cashout-ban-pointless-20170706-gx61cx.html

I can tell you, as a person who has been affected by someone with a gambling addiction and having gone through the process of dealing with my own addiction, these two articles have bothered me.

Both articles have done nothing but show the member’s lack of interest or intellect regarding gambling harm and policy designed to prevent and minimise the prospect of harm to the citizens of his territory.

Anyone hearing the industry driven speak spouted by Mr. Parton would think that there is a degree of ‘individual responsibility’ surrounding one’s addiction. Research and medical data indicates that this argument is not as straight forward as the spoken word. One doesn’t just walk into a pub or club and propose to themselves that they will become addicted, conversely the breaking from an addiction to gambling, particularly poker machines. Gambling addiction is not as straight forward as the industry and various politicians would have you believe, hence why it is likened to such addictions as cocaine and other substances. Poker machines are designed to addict, they prey on the reward pathways in the brain. I know this because I was addicted and continue to maintain counselling to keep my addiction in check.

The 2010 Productivity Commission Inquiry into Gambling postulated that for every one person affected by gambling harm there are 5 to potentially 10 other people indirectly impacted by the harm caused by the one person’s addiction. Presuming the ANU’s statistics on problem gambling hold at 0.4% of the population of ACT, this figure being for the most severe case, ‘problem gamblers’, that makes the number 1581 at current population.
Multiplied by the number of people indirectly affected, that figure blows out to 7905-15810.
This would mean that 9486-17391 people in the ACT are currently dealing with the stressors created by gambling and gambling products, at the most severe levels. 2.7-4.5% of the ACT population.

Recent studies have noted that stress from gambling addiction doesn’t equate the same for those at different levels on the socio-economic scale. Those that have little money to gamble and gamble less frequently may be impacted more seriously. The models (PGSI) might only show a person as having a low or moderate risk of problem gambling, but in fact the impact felt by that person and perhaps their family would be more accentuated.

My own impact from gambling has seen me dwindle down savings, rack up thousands of dollars in debt, disassociate from friends, lie to people I love the most and finally, nearly lose them. The mental anguish caused to my family and myself, I can’t begin to explain.
The governments of Australia need to collectively rethink the equation on gambling. Gambling, particularly poker machine gambling, is not easy money. It destroys communities in ways researchers are only starting to reveal. The costs of these health impacts, suicide, family violence, crime, etc. Equates to multi-millions of dollars. Additionally, funds are sucked out of communities, losing potential revenue through commerce and jobs gobbled up by ‘pokie palaces’. The estimated cost of these negative effects to Australians being $4.7 billion dollars annually.

Perhaps Mr. Parton can iterate his alternate policy on gambling. Perhaps helping clubs, pubs and governments to wean their dependence off poker machine revenue and provide financial business advice to those prepared to go Pokie Free.

Verbalising industry speak like ‘sensible gambling’, ‘responsible gamblers’, ‘Individual responsibility’, separates the ownership of the gambling industry’s role in providing machines that are designed to addict and keep people in a spiral of destruction, while also exacerbating the stigma felt by those addicted

When faced with a public health issue in the past, Australia has led the world in its approach to dealing with it, tobacco being an obvious example. It’s time to put the genie back in the bottle

Leigh Mason – Chairperson GIS NSW – 13 July 2017

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