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Media releases

Churches call for NSW gambling inquiry

28 March 2013

The President of the NSW Council of Churches, the Reverend Dr Ross Clifford, has renewed a call for the O’Farrell Government to hold a wide-ranging inquiry into the social and economic ramifications of the gambling industry.

“In the light of the ongoing debate on a second Sydney casino, and fears of mission creep over poker machines, and significant community concern about sports betting, we respectfully ask all NSW political parties not to support any legislation that would increase the availability or visibility of gambling until an inquiry has reported and the parliament and community have had adequate opportunity to respond to any recommendations it might propose,” Dr Clifford said.

“NSW has around 50 per cent of the nation’s poker machines, and more problem gamblers than any other state. NSW also has a stable government, strong political voices representing healthy and informed discussion, and the numbers needed to achieve historic gambling reform. An inquiry should examine the social impact of poker machines, telephone betting and online betting.

“Pastors, counselors and staff in gaming venues all see the negative social ramifications of problem gambling. We are all aware of the rise of ubiquitous sports betting and gambling advertising invading televised sport. We need to identify and implement regulatory models that will produce the best outcomes,” he said.

“This is not about seeking to impose wowser values. It’s about effective harm minimization and consumer protection strategies. No one who is genuinely concerned about the devastating impact of problem gambling on individuals and communities in NSW wants to wait for a federal inquiry to report on federal issues. This is an issue for the states and NSW should take the lead,” Dr Clifford said.

The NSW Council of Churches continues to affirm its strong support for the objectives of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce including mandatory pre-commitment technology and $1 maximum bets for all poker machines in Australia, and supports effective measures to curb out-of-control sports betting and interactive betting.

According to the Productivity Commission’s report on gambling released in 2010, NSW had 97,065 (or 48 per cent) of the nation’s electronic gaming machines and shouldered $4.7 billion (or 45 per cent) of the nation’s poker machine expenditure.

Media contact Rod Benson 0412 421 678

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