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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2514 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Ms Dundas raised a hypothetical question, to a degree, about why we keep focusing on poker machines and why we have casinos in the private sector and other forms of gambling in the private sector. The reason that there is so much attention in Australia, and in fact world wide, on poker machines is that poker machines are a particular problem. I received a letter from Lifeline, and I'll read part of it:

I am writing with regard to the proposed private members bill allowing hotels and pubs to install up to 10 poker machines. I urge you on behalf of Lifeline Canberra and many clients that we see not to support such a bill.

Lifeline Canberra runs gambling care, the only specialised counselling service for people experiencing difficulties with gambling. As you may be aware, most people experiencing problems with gambling in the ACT have problems with electronic gaming machines. In any year more than 80 per cent of our clients will be EGM players.

Our counsellors work with clients to overcome their problems of gambling. In doing so, they hear firsthand of the incredible hardship and distress which problem gamblers and their families face. Many of our clients tell us that they have contemplated suicide as a way out of their gambling problems. Lifeline Canberra is firmly of the view that no additional electronic gaming machines should be permitted in the ACT.

A significant factor in development of problem gambling can be attributed to an increase in accessibility of gaming machines. Introduction of poker machines in hotels or pubs or to the casino would increase accessibility and would also increase the number of people who develop problems with gambling.

I've received a lot of correspondence on this, taking different positions on it, obviously; people have different views on the issue. I'll just read to you one more letter, to give a sense of how some people who are personally involved feel about this. This person wrote:

As a concerned wife of a husband who has a poker machine addiction, I am pleading with you to please not give your support. My husband has a drink at the local tavern so as not to be tempted by poker machines in clubs, where on numerous occasions he has gambled his whole pay away.

That's just an example of one person who's dealing with this issue.

But that is not, obviously, a reason to support a particular position on this policy. I'm reading that out as an indication of one person's experience. But obviously when you look at what's coming from Lifeline as well, which is the key counselling organisation that's assisting people with this problem, the position that this woman has put is supported more broadly by Lifeline.

The real issues are justice and equity-and I will come back to that. We want to look at social justice and equity; we want to look at the adverse impacts of gambling on our society; and we want to look at how we can, as much as possible, reduce the harm associated with poker machine use. The figures that we are given, of course, are just

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