Over the next few weeks the Tasmanian community will make itself heard in the Parliamentary Committee hearings on the Future of Gaming Markets in Tasmania.
“We warmly welcome this Parliamentary Committee as an opportunity for our leaders to hear directly from the Tasmanian people on the issue of poker machines in this state,” said Meg Webb, of the Community Voice on Pokies Reform coalition.
“An unprecedented number of submissions were made to the Committee, the vast majority calling for the removal of poker machines from pubs and clubs in Tasmania,” Ms Webb said. “This reflects the depth of community feeling on the harm caused by these machines to individuals, families and local communities.”
Since the introduction of poker machines to hotels and clubs in 1997, every poll has found that four in five Tasmanians do not believe that their community benefits from the presence of poker machines.
“The State Government has said it wishes to find a way forward that is in the best interests of the Tasmanian community,” said Ms Webb. “The submissions give a loud and clear message – the Tasmanian community rejects poker machines in local venues.”
Community Voice on Pokies Reform, a growing coalition of nearly fifty community organisations, peak bodies, professional groups, local councils and unions, will appear at the hearings, as will many of its members.
Members of the coalition see first hand the damage done by poker machines.
“By the time people come to our services we are often just picking up the pieces ,” said Robin Black of Relationships Australia. “We see hundreds of people every year in our gambling counselling service who have had every aspect of their lives damaged by poker machines.”
“Many of the people we see find it impossible to avoid poker machines when going about their lives in their local community,” Ms Black said. “The best way to minimise the harm caused is to take poker machines out of hotels and clubs.”
For every Tasmanian who has a problem with poker machine gambling there are a further five to ten people harmed, including family, friends, employers, neighbours. By taking decisive action on poker machines, the State Government will be offering hope and relief to thousands of Tasmanians who feel the impact from these dangerous products.
“I’m really pleased to have the chance to directly tell politicians how bad it has been for my family,” said Jonathan, who has a family member with a poker machine gambling problem. “This affects all of us and every day we struggle to manage my sister’s problem.”
“We really need help, and counselling helps a bit, but it is just impossible to avoid the pokies when they are all around us in our suburb,” said Jonathan.
“These Parliamentary hearings are an opportunity for politicians of all stripes to listen and act on the clear message from the Tasmanian people,” said Meg Webb.
“Our State Government is focused on building a social legacy in Tasmania,” said Ms Webb. “Decisive action on poker machines would be a significant contribution to that legacy and a nation-leading effort in community health and well-being.”
For information: Kate Burton 0402 016 625