playing pokies for jesus

I just know I’m going to cop flak for this one… but it’s been bothering me for a while. The gambling industry is up in arms about the Gillard government’s proposed poker machine reforms; of course they are. Clubs NSW is leading the charge; understandable. But what about the Catholic clubs?

You see, there’s a number of registered clubs in NSW that are known as the Catholic clubs. They were started years ago, generally by prominent Catholic businessmen or parents from the local Catholic school, and grew to a point where they took on a life of their own. They are well respected, very successful and, as far as I know, still hold true to their original Catholic ideals.

There are five Catholic clubs in NSW that I’m aware of, and four of them are online. Those four have grown to become very successful indeed, and they are The Catholic Club (also known as The Castlereagh Club), the Campbelltown Catholic Club (also known as King of Clubs), Dooleys Lidcombe Catholic Club and Liverpool Catholic Club. All four of these clubs have poker machines, and plenty of them.

Now I’m not going to say that there’s anything hypocritical about linking Catholicism with gambling. Bingo, anyone? There’s nothing wrong with gambling, in and of itself, and it certainly isn’t a sin. But what about problem gambling?

Remember, church groups across the country are concerned about problem gambling. Both the Victorian InterChurch Gambling Taskforce and the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce support the Gillard government’s reforms and have repeatedly expressed their dismay with the tactics employed by the industry, Clubs NSW and Clubs Australia in particular, in fighting these reforms. Many gambling counselling services are faith-based, and there is no doubt that the Catholic church, like so many other religious organisations in this country, have seen their fair share of human carnage as a direct result of poker machine addiction.

But these clubs…

The signs say “Catholic” but their bosses are Clubs NSW. All four of the Catholic clubs I listed above support the “It’s Un-Australian” campaign.

This was on the “What’s On” page of The (Castlereagh) Catholic Club website:

This was on the front page of the Campbelltown “King of Clubs” Catholic Club website:

This was on the front page of the Dooleys Lidcombe Catholic Club website:

And this was on the front page of the Liverpool Catholic Club website:

Am I the only one who is appalled that these clubs, founded on Catholic ideals, are actively supporting a campaign that portays its opponents as un-Australian? That places the blame for gambling problems squarely on the shoulders of poker machine addicts and absolves the industry? That plays politics with people’s lives?

Or for these clubs, is the word “Catholic” simply a remnant of a bygone time… a reminder of where they came from, but by no means an indicator of where they’re heading?

For me, it’s troubling on a personal level. Regardless of what I am now, I was born and raised Catholic. I went through the Catholic school system, participated in Catholic youth groups, heck I was even a lay minister for a while. I understand Catholicism.

But I don’t understand this.

There’s a famous story from the Gospels, about how Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. I think these clubs have it the wrong way around.


5 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    Nice work again Tom. Maybe Jesus was a bit of a punter what with his loaves and fishes thing and certainly the Vatican would fully support pokes within the firm as it would outside.

  2. ErikH says:

    The Catholic Clubs should have been in the forefront of trialling the Pre-Commitment technology, not trying to stop it.

    “Profits before People” seems to be the motto. Appalling

  3. Libby Mitchell says:

    This defies belief Tom! I am dumbfounded that these clubs exist as gambling venues. I recall in 2000 the Catholic Church group in Melton [VIC] applied or planned to apply for a pokies licence but the local community kicked up and it did not go ahead. I have never heard of another similar mad event so assumed it was a ‘one time try’.

    Bill Kearney of the US has been alarmed at the rejection of the Christian church’s ideals in favor of casinos too, Tom. I will post this on the Gambling Action Group site and message him! I am pinching a video clip that he uses…it hits right home! Maybe the Catholic Church should watch it again and reflect harder…together with a lot of supposed “Christians” who yet do not support gambling reforms! However, actually running a pokies venue to profit from that tragedy money just takes the cake! It has to stop!

    It is a damned insult to citizen intelligence for any church or respected social group to be expecting to be taken seriously, when their profits come from pokies! The Australian Labor Party has the same gambling venue issues and frankly I am not sure which position is worse…the Catholic Church’s or the ALP’s? At least the Salvos had the good grace to try to ‘explain’ their position when its NSW group appeared to support pokies! But then again…the governments that we voted in also support pokies…so in the end we only have ourselves to blame I guess! We have tolerated it…but for how much longer I wonder?

    (link removed)

  4. cyenne says:

    Libby, I think it’s important to recognise that there is a clear and definite distinction between the Catholic Church and the Catholic clubs.

    The feedback I have had on this article from Catholics has been universally supportive of poker machine addicts and the proposed reforms, and horror at the actions of the Catholic clubs.

  5. Tim Falkiner says:

    Dear Tom
    Considering the symbolism used on the machines and their spiritual dimension the clubs are committing idolatry. It is the equivalent of stamping on crucifixes.
    Kind regards

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