Winners and losers

GamblingBendigo and Adelaide Bank has withdrawn a multi-million dollar court case against Crown Casino over embezzled funds.

The bank pursued legal action over three million dollars stolen by former bank employee Kate Jamieson. It claimed that Ms Jamieson used 95 per cent of the stolen funds to gamble at Crown’s poker machines.

Court documents lodged by the bank alleged that Crown wilfully ignored the fact that Ms Jamieson came into possession of the funds through illegal means.

The bank dropped the case just as the trial was about to begin.

Justice and International Mission unit director Dr Mark Zirnsak is head of the Victorian Inter-Church Gambling Taskforce. The Taskforce seeks to reduce the harm caused by poker machines and has advocated for greater penalties for gambling venues that fail to take money laundering risks seriously.

“It is a great disappointment that the Bendigo Bank has ended its legal action against Crown Casino.” Dr Zirnsak said.

“If successful, it would have set a precedent for businesses and individuals to pursue gambling companies who are reckless in allowing stolen funds to be gambled with them.”

Dr Zirnsak said that a successful court case could have potentially led to greater measures to detect problem gamblers.

“It had the possibility of placing pressure on gambling companies to act responsibly and ensure the source of funds people are losing have a legitimate source,” he said.

“It may also have been a step towards gambling companies ensuring people are gambling within their means.”

While the bank’s decision is a big win for Crown, 500,000 Australians continue to battle with, or are at risk of, gambling addiction.

Problem gambling is a significant public health issue in Australia. According to the Department of Social Services, Australians spend an estimated $12 billion a year on poker machines. One in six people who play the pokies on a regular basis develop a severe addiction.

Problem gamblers lose approximately $21,000 every year, but the impact goes beyond financial loss.

Gambling addiction has a devastating impact on relationships, employment and mental health. Families often bear the brunt of the damage caused by increasing debt.

Growing up in a household affected by problem gambling can have long-term impacts on children. A study conducted by The Problem Gambling Research and Treatment Centre found that children with parents who are problem gamblers are ten times more likely to become problem gamblers than children with non-gambling parents.

Image by Garth Jones.

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