Pokies politics in play

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A PUSH against pokies is being planned in the lead up to next year’s state election by a group trying to enlist councils to the anti-pokies cause.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform wants councils to support a campaign calling on both sides of politics in the lead up to next year’s state election to act on pokies reform.

Alliance media and communications advisor Stephen Mayne addressed Kingston Council at a public meeting to hear council budget submissions last week.

He asked council to get behind the campaign to rein in pokies losses by joining the group as a “tier one” contributor and pitch in $25,000 to the campaign.

“The fact that Kingston is in the top ten in the state for pokies losses is disappointing and I know it is a concern for your council,” he said at the meeting.

Mr Mayne – founder of the Crikey news site, a former City of Melbourne councillor and shareholder activist –noted $83.4 million was lost to pokies across the Kingston municipality in 2015-16.

“A very large amount of money. Australia runs the world’s most addictive and dangerous poker machines so you can lose thousands of dollars an hour on our poker machines.”

He said Australians “have the lamentable prize” of being the world’s biggest gamblers per capita racking up $23 billion a year in losses including “about half of that” on pokies.

Mr Mayne said the alliance effectively wants to run “an auction” and lobby the Liberal and Labor parties to publicly declare their position on gambling reform before the election.

“Who can put up the best reform package? That’s everything from maximum $1 bets … [to] increasing the tax which is discounted for some pokies operators, reducing the hours, the marketing to children,” he said.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform website states the group is “a collaboration of organisations with a shared concern about the deeply harmful and unfair impacts of gambling and its normalisation in Australian culture.

“We campaign for reforms of the gambling industry that reduce the harm it causes. We are 100 per cent funded by donations from individuals and foundations that do not have any ties with the gambling industry. We are not affiliated with any political party.”

Moreland, Greater Dandenong, Monash, Whittlesea and Melbourne councils are listed as “Alliance leaders” on the alliance site.

Frankston Council is listed among several councils as an “Alliance supporter”.

Alliance leaders contribute financially to the group’s campaigns.

Organisations on the board are the Australian Inter-Church Gambling Taskforce, Gambling Impact Society NSW, Monash Council, The Salvation Army, The Victorian Local Government Association, Uniting Church, Victoria Inter-Church Gambling Taskforce and Whittlesea Interagency Taskforce on Gambling.

Activist group GetUp! is listed as a supporter.

The Reverend Tim Costello is a spokesman for the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

Former state Labor MP Kelvin Thomson joined the alliance as a campaign manager late last year.

Kingston councillors will consider joining the alliance campaign and contributing the requested $25,000 later this month.

First published in the Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News – 14 June 2017

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