Gambling harms local communities

The Queensland Government has announced that it will be offering three new casino licences, which will ensure that a third of all casinos in Australia are located in Queensland. New South Wales has recently granted its second casino licence and, despite Queensland having 2.5 million fewer people than New South Wales, Queensland could have seven casinos within the decade.

Local communities in Queensland are concerned about what the three new casino licences could mean for locals. Gambling counsellor Reverend John Tully has stated that the casinos will have a devastating effect on local communities, “[The casinos will] rip families apart, desperately, and each other gambler will affect 10 to 15 other people.”

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has said that extra revenue is not a factor in offering the three new licences, while State Opposition treasury spokesperson, Curtis Pitt, says that the Newman Government’s support for the new casino licences is a desperate measure.

In a report made public earlier this year, Echo Entertainment’s chief executive John Redmond said that there were more gaming machines in Queensland than in the entire Las Vegas strip. But apparently casinos are not the problem. Less than 10 per cent of all gaming machines in Queensland can be found in casinos – most of the 45,700 gambling machines are in the 1284 clubs and pubs with gambling licences, rather than in the four casinos.

Gambling in Australia is also starting to affect an unexpected audience – our children. Researchers have found that the massive increase in gambling advertising over the last few years has caused Australian teenagers to naturally link sport and gambling. Public health associate Samantha Thomas says that most teens in a recent study felt that gambling was being promoted as “entertaining, fun and easy”.

An ad campaign being run by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation to help educate Australians about under-age gambling shares some frightening statistics. It states that children may be exposed to two hours of gambling advertising every week. Each year 80 per cent of teens will gamble at least once, and five to 10 per cent of teens gamble frequently. On average there is one teenager in every classroom with a gambling problem.

Read more about the plans for new Queensland casinos at the ABC News website

If you believe that you, or someone you know, may have a gambling problem, visit the Gambling Help Online website for free, anonymous, 24/7 support from a real human being. 

Opinion: Casinos are not the problem

I would like to start by putting a question to you, the reader. If, as Premier Newman claims, the casino licences are not being offered for extra revenue, then what are they being created for? What possible reason could the Queensland Government have for allowing three new casinos, other than to make money? I’m personally drawing a blank.

But, money aside, gambling is clearly becoming a real problem in Australia. And I agree with Mr Redmond’s assessment – I don’t think casinos are the problem. Casinos are a contained, over 18s area designed solely for gambling. If you go to a casino you can’t pretend you’re there to do anything but throw your money away. Don’t get me wrong – gambling in moderation can be fun. A friendly wager between friends or a once-a-year bet on the local races isn’t a problem by itself.

The reason I don’t think casinos are the problem is that they are contained. To me it seems like Australia’s gambling problem stems from a lack of control. 90 per cent of gambling machines can be found in everyday locations – in clubs, pubs, RSLs and other venues. These are places we go to socialise, to eat, to dance and to have fun. It is easy to pretend you’re going to the pub for a meal rather than to play the pokies, because it’s a safe, local environment. Casinos seem dangerous, but the local pub is safe, which lulls us into a false sense of security about the pokies machines at the pub. Surely they are just a bit of fun.

The other area in which gambling has become uncontained and uncontrolled is through advertising, both on television and online. Clearly our children are being exposed to gambling advertising, especially during sporting events. But, where a child cannot enter a casino to gamble, any tech-savvy teenager with a smartphone or laptop can gamble online.

Casinos get a bad rap, but I think it is the gambling which takes place in our own homes and local communities which is the unseen danger.

What do you think? Should Queensland be allowed to build three more casinos? Or should we be more worried about our children being exposed to gambling on the television and online?