Church mobilises to curb power and devastation of gambling industry
The Moderator of the Uniting Church NSW & ACT, Rev. Simon Hansford, has appealed to the church’s 500 congregations to mobilise politically to curb the pernicious impact of the gambling industry and to break the silence and shame that drives gambling problems underground.
Rev. Hansford said the gambling industry insinuates itself into entertainment and politics as harmless fun but it was silently devastating families and communities. The industry’s catch cry to ‘gamble responsibly’, effectively blamed the individual and increased the shame of people with gambling problems and all but ensured they did not seek help, he said.
In a letter to the church’s 50,000 members, Rev. Hansford said: “I am encouraging your congregation to be part of the effort to break this cycle of silence and shame, to become a haven for people struggling with gambling and their families and to be vocal in sending our political leaders a message demanding gambling reform that cannot be ignored.
“The church needs to be in the fight for political change. What drives us is not the politics, but the lives being crippled by what is happening. And there are clear measures that can be taken.”
In the letter church members are urged to write to their local MP to express their concern at the impact gambling is having in their communities and to urge immediate action.
“The social problems that are created or exacerbated by gambling – relationship breakdown, children going hungry, depression and at the extreme spectrum domestic violence and suicide – have all been exacerbated during this pandemic. We must act,” Rev. Hansford said in the letter to congregations.
“We are complicit if we stay silent. We are not serving our communities if we don’t raise our voice. I encourage you and your church to join with me in this important effort.”
The church has joined with Wesley Mission and the Alliance for Gambling Reform in a concerted campaign to reduce the damage caused by poker machines.
“Australians lose more in gambling per capita than any other country in the world and by far the biggest losses – $12.5 billion every year – is through poker machines,” Rev. Hansford said.
“Two Productivity Commission reports have recommended straightforward moves to slow down the machines and to implement $1 maximum bets.
“The other simple, effective change would be to reduce the hours that poker machine operators are open. In NSW, gaming rooms operate up to 18 hours a day. And it is between midnight and 10am when we fear the most harm is done.”
The Uniting Church NSW and ACT has also joined with other church leaders in urging the NSW Government to forge ahead with its plans for a state-issued gambling card, due to their concerns that existing harm minimisation measures are grossly inadequate.
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