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Pokies likened to heroin addiction in new campaign

NEWS | Tess Holgate
Monday 11 April 2016

As Christians band together to launch a “landmark legal challenge” against the multi-billion dollar gambling industry, a new video aims to educate Australians on exactly how poker machines are designed to deceive players.

The video, released by the Alliance for Gambling reform (which is backed by the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce and Christian group Common Grace), is a cheeky explanation of exactly how poker machines work.

The video begins with a scenario: “Imagine there was a man selling apples. But in truth, the man secretly put heroin into those apples. Would you call that bad luck, or would you call that a deadly con-job? This isn’t a game of chance. It’s rigged.”

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According to the video, there are 198,418 poker machines in Australia, a staggering 20 per cent of the world’s total poker machines. These bleed just under $12 billion from the pockets of everyday Australians each year.

Tim Costello, Chair of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce and a Common Grace Board Member, said in a media release, “As a Christian, I am profoundly saddened by how poker machines target society’s most vulnerable and ruin lives, and feel compelled to make a stand to see an end to this injustice.”

The Alliance first made waves in the Australian media in October 2014, with the release of documentary Ka-ching! The documentary looked at the social cost of the pokies and state government reliance on tax revenue from gaming machines.

Speaking to Eternity in October 2015, spokesperson for the Alliance on Gambling reform, Allison Keogh said, “The last time this issue was raised, the people who were pro-reform were trying to fight on their own against a big campaign led by the industry. Instead, I think we can collectively challenge this, and lead the debate down the path of listening to the experts and those that have experienced harm.”

The states receive roughly ten per cent of their revenue from taxes imposed on gambling (an estimated $3 billion of which comes from poker machines across the nation).

“Frankly I don’t think it’s good enough for state governments to say ‘we need that revenue,’ because they wouldn’t say that about any other product that is causing harm,” says Allison.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform has been working with pro bono lawyers to prepare a legal challenge against the gambling industry, and plan on arguing that the machines are illegal, because they break Australian consumer law.

As the video says: “No one should be allowed to sell poison apples. You don’t play the pokies, the pokies play you.”

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