Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 3 December 2020 2020) . . Page.. 145 ..
significance to tell a story. Today, I can speak for my constituents. My feelings about gambling have drastically changed since my teenage days. Today, I can speak about the feelings of despair a woman described to me about the exact moment she found out her husband had been drawing down on their mortgage without her knowledge as a result of his gambling, meaning they would lose their house. She told me of the deepest sense of betrayal she felt.
Today, I speak about the powerlessness felt by a child who walks home from school. Mum is not home. He waits. Hours go by. There is a sinking feeling in his heart because he knows she is at the club. Today, I can express the helplessness of a man and what he feels when he picks up his elderly mother from the club each afternoon. It once was once a week; now it is almost every day. She is lonely and filling in time, she says, but he knows she is going without food. There is no end to these stories. Sure, we know many people gamble and experience no harm. Good luck to them. I represent a community that cares about the 10 per cent of the Canberra adult population and their loved ones who do not walk away unscathed.
Absolutely we must address online racing and sports betting. Their advertising has riddled our entertainment and sports for over a decade now, and has ensured that if you are a male in the ACT under the age of 45, one in five of you have a predicted probability of being an at-risk or problem gambler. Whilst new forms of gambling are growing at exponential rates, there is no getting away from what we cannot ignore in our community, and that is poker machines. Playing a poker machine is the most significant predictor of gambling harm, and one-third of the number of people sitting at machines in the ACT are experiencing harms associated with their gambling.
It is not just the people using the venues who experience the harm. We know from research in other jurisdictions that staff who work in these venues report double the rate of harm from gambling than the general population. Poker machines are the dark heart of our clubs. These machines directly contradict the narrative that clubs are a positive contributor to our community. While I have many conversations with people about harm from gambling, I also talk to many people who see the social and community value and resource in clubs. Eighty per cent of Canberrans attended a club last year. This demonstrates that clubs have more to offer than their pokies.
Clubs provide important jobs and sporting infrastructure, and support community and local sporting groups. I challenge the club sector in the ACT to reframe their businesses, to be the drivers of reform, to be proactive in addressing harm, and to be progressive in having women on their boards and as their senior staff. Nothing can hit the club sector harder than COVID did; now is the time to embrace the opportunity for change. Look to your members, your staff and your community, and your community will support you in this move.
Over the past decade, I have become very invested in my local community through the schools and sporting clubs that my children have attended, and the healthcare and community sector support I have received. I love our beautiful nature reserves, tree-lined streets and parks that I walk most evenings. When I first moved here I knew no-one. Over time, I became part of a community. Every day, my connections would form just a little bit further, from the local shop owners and neighbours, who,