Earlier this year Uniting Church members wrote letters to the Victorian Government, at the urging of the synod’s Commission for Mission, asking that the Government not allow pokie venues to introduce controversial loyalty schemes.
Unfortunately at the end of July the Victorian Government announced that the venues will be allowed to have loyalty schemes on their pokie machines.
The only significant concession made to protect against the loyalty schemes increasing the level of problem gambling in Victoria, is that the loyalty points will not be able to be redeemed for more pokie credits or cash. However, loyalty points will be able to be redeemed for alcohol.
“It is deeply disappointing the Victorian Government is going to allow pokie venues to roll out loyalty schemes on their machines,” Justice and International Mission unit director Dr Mark Zirnsak said.
“Everyone knows loyalty schemes are all about getting people to spend more. When it comes to pokies, spending more can lead people into very deep trouble, from mental health problems to divorce.”
Dr Zirnsak stressed the need to highlight problem gambling as a key social issue requiring significant political leadership.
“We will be seeking to highlight the need to combat the harm pokies cause in the Victorian community as one of the issues the political parties will need to respond to in the lead up to the Victorian election.”
A total of $2.5 billion was lost on poker machines in Victoria last year. In Tasmania almost $190 million was lost in the 2013-14 financial year or $53,182 per machine.