This is incredibly disappointing. Lifeline boss Carrie Leeson has taken a position on the board of a new clubs lobby group in the ACT, which not only represents clubs with over 1000 poker machines but is also calling for access to automated casino-style gambling in clubs.
Some background. The breakaway group has been set up by 4 of Canberra’s biggest clubs in opposition to Clubs ACT, which has fallen out of favour with the government after campaigning against Labor at the last election. ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr created the group and is refusing to deal with Clubs ACT, which gives the fledgling lobby group significant influence in the capital territory.
Leeson says her role is to help clubs introduce “meaningful evidence-based harm minimisation” but her involvement is far more likely to be designed to give the new group respectability than it is to actually do any good. The phrase “evidence-based” has been used by the clubs industry around the country for years to resist any efforts to impose gambling reform, and this is not likely to be any different.
The group that Leeson has just joined is lobbying for vastly increased access to gambling in ACT clubs, the removal of ATM restrictions and more. They want clubs to be able to compete with the ACT casino. Their agenda is clear. And Lifeline’s connection to this group will only help them achieve that agenda.
Gambling is a significant cause of personal crisis and suicidal ideation. Many of the people who call Lifeline for help have been affected by gambling. This decision is a mistake, a terrible mistake that Lifeline must rectify quickly.
I’m currently running a fundraiser to purchase poker machines data from NSW, and I had committed to donating any excess funds to Lifeline. In light of this news, I am revoking that decision and will direct that money towards an organisation without ties to gambling in general, and poker machines in particular.
I call on Carrie Leeson and Lifeline to recognise that they have made a mistake; that the ACT clubs industry is using them for legitimacy, nothing more. I strongly urge them to reconsider this decision.