Trying to stop Australians' gambling addiction


Profiteering poker-machine operators are gearing up to spend $20 million to derail government plans to kick Australia’s pokie addiction. Prime Minister Julia Gillard committed to help gambling-affected families -- but insiders fear she’ll back-track in the face of pressure from vested interests.

The key reform, requiring problem-gamblers to set a daily spending cap, would go a long way to preventing addiction and ensure gamblers' families have money for basics like groceries and rent. Former problem gamblers have given the plan the nod, but pokie operators who profit from the misery of problem-gambling are counting on a mining industry style PR campaign to win public sympathy and scuttle the plan.

The reform is being championed by long-time problem gambling campaigners, Independent Member of the Legislative Assembly, Andrew Wilkie, and Senator Nick Xenophon.

In addition to requiring pre-set spending caps, the plan will also begin to limit the maximum daily withdrawal from cash dispensers in the pokie area -- to $250. The policies are first-step recommendations from a major gambling investigation by the Productivity Commission last year. The Commission estimated that Australia has 100,000 problem gamblers that lose an average of $21,000 each year and create a social price tag of $4.7 billion that's picked up by taxpayers.

Opposition to the plan is being led by Clubs Australia which believes it can defeat the reforms by mimicking the tactics used by the mining industry to defeat the mining tax. They may be right -- their huge PR campaign will pose a formidable challenge. But most Australians have been touched by problem gambling -- they know it’s a hidden disease destroying friends and families.

We have a chance to do something about it by signing a petition:

Our community has already won major victories in the face of powerful opposition. If we work together now -- uniting our friends and family behind this cause -- this time needn’t be any different. When the petition reaches 100,000 we'll deliver it to Gillard and the media.

Fortunately, we can work with our friends at GetUp! who are also building the petition. Our combined efforts can make this national call big enough to challenge the vested interests.