we’re still gambling

So the VCGR have released their poker machine figures for the 2009-10 financial year. They seemed to think the situation was improving, as I discussed here. And today, Victorian Gaming Minister Tony Robinson was quoted in this article, talking about the drop in spending and the reduced incidence of problem gambling in Victoria.

To read all this, you’d think we were winning the battle against problem gambling. Well, guess what?

We’re still gambling.

Yes, Mr Robinson, this is the largest decline in poker machine losses since 2002-03. But it’s only the first drop in 6 years, and Victoria is still losing $2.59 billion a year on the pokies. No matter how you paint that picture, it looks terrible.

And, Mr Robinson, you claim that “the incidence of problem gambling had declined from 2.1 per cent of the Victorian adult population in 1999 to 0.7 per cent today”. Now, given that it is widely recognised and accepted that problem gambling numbers in this country are much higher than are reported, due largely to the shame that is associated with this addiction and the general public’s perception of problem gamblers as lazy, stupid and irresponsible, there is absolutely no way you can make this claim with any degree of certainty.

Even assuming you are correct, that still means we have close to 30,000 problem gamblers in the state of Victoria alone. That’s nothing to be proud of. And the actual figures are likely to be much higher.

We now have 514 gaming venues in Victoria. If you believe the party line, this is great news, the number of gaming venues is at its lowest point in years… but the reality is that this is only 1 venue less than last year. The gambling landscape is essentially unchanged.

In my opinion, the decrease in pokie expenditure has far more to do with the tough economic climate, and very little to do with any changes of preventative measures that the governments has put in place. And the people spending less are the recreational gamblers, to whom it’s just a passing diversion. They’re far more likely to hang on to their dollars, and put them to better use.

Whereas the problem gamblers continue to spend, and spend, and spend. They’re addicted; they’re invested in chasing their losses. They’re trying to numb the pain of their lives. And no governmental changes have addressed that.

Tony Robinson, stop trying to tell us that things are getting better. For those of us who need it most, nothing has changed… at least not for the better.

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