The ACT government should do more to address gambling damage after the lockdown, the Labor background says

Pokies in the club

Labor backer Dr. Marisa Paterson has called on the ACT government to do more to curb gambling damage after the lockdown. Photo: Fil.

While pubs and clubs in Canberra reopen after lockdown, Labor backer Dr. Marisa Paterson called on the ACT government to do more to limit gambling damage and says the experience of intergovernmental jurisdictions should serve as a warning to the territory.

She told a hearing on ACT Budget estimates last week that she is concerned about what is likely to happen after lockdown to people who are at risk of harming gambling.

Mens Dr. Paterson said the ACT already has several strategies to reduce gambling damages in place, such as self-exclusion programs, the ACT Gambling Support Service and the helpline and trained staff at locations to identify vulnerable borrowers, she said. leaving lockdown.

With capacity constraints at venues increasing in the coming weeks, more people will be able to access slot machines, and Dr. Paterson does not think it is too late to implement changes.

Dr. Paterson, formerly head of the ANU Center for Gambling Research, noted that people tend to be more prone to gambling injuries during periods of stress or high anxiety, of which there have been many recently.

“We put it in the mix with gambling injuries, and players will then be at greater risk of experiencing harm than they normally would be,” she said.

Dr.  Marisa Paterson

Dr. Marisa Paterson has previously headed the ANU Center for Gambling Research. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

She also cited the experience of other Australian jurisdictions, including the surrounding NSW region.

“Past lockdowns in other jurisdictions showed massive increases in venue revenue when pokies went online again, with people spending much more money than they normally would,” said Dr. Paterson.

“There is evidence to suggest that when clubs and pubs are open, people go out and spend money at higher prices than usual.”

In hearings on ACT Budget estimates on Thursday, October 28, ACT Gaming Minister Shane Rattenbury said there has been no specific work to minimize gambling damage as lockdown restrictions ease, but that there is ongoing action across agencies on the issue .

He said due to capacity constraints, access to ATMs would obviously be rationed, citing the recent Gambling Harm Awareness Week as an example of the ACT government’s work to address the issue.


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Rattenbury also told the hearing that preliminary data already shows an increase in ATM revenue since the abolition of the COVID-19 lockdown, noting that there had been a nationwide increase in the number of people signing up for online betting and gambling platforms during lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

“The bottom line is that poker machines are deliberately addictive,” he said. “They are designed to connect people and extract – in some cases frankly – more money than people can afford, and that’s why we have a long-term harm minimization reform program.”

Dr. Paterson said if a similar situation were to arise with alcohol, with bottled shops, pubs and clubs all closed during lockdown and then reopened, the ACT government would introduce “significant risk reduction strategies” as well as increased policing.

“We would recognize as a community that there is potential for significant harm from these venues reopening,” she said.


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Dr. Paterson said it is likely that the next few months will see problem gamblers or those at risk of injury appear more often at venues.

“We need to make sure venues are monitored during this period in terms of what people are doing inside, and keep an eye on red flag behavior,” she said.

In May 2021, the ACT government established an advisory council, which is part of the ongoing efforts to reduce gambling damage in the territory. The council is chaired by Mr Rattenbury and consists of club representatives and proponents of injury.

ACT has long worked in the gambling reform, with harm minimization strategies such as reducing the number of pokies in pubs and clubs in Canberra.

If gambling injuries affect you, a friend or a family member, you can get free, confidential online support at gamblinghelponline.org.au, or you can talk to a support person on 1800 858 858.

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