Leading social services figure Tim Costello has hit out at the concept of the state government-supported Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, saying the onus needs to be placed back on the gambling industry.
The spokesman for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, along with Ballarat Salvation Army captain Claire Emerton both queried the week which is run by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Commission.
Over the 2015/16 financial year Ballarat gamblers poured more-than $54 million into the city’s 663 pokies, averaging out to more-than $105,000 a week.
Mr Costello described Responsible Gambling Awareness Week as “a complete waste of money”, given the industry’s targeted attempts to hook would-be gamblers.
“The machine is the issue not the people who are playing the pokies,” Mr Costello said.
“These pokies are ravenous, addictive and fast, and less-than 25 per cent of adults play pokies nationwide but 50 per cent of those are addicted.”
Ms Emerton was equally critical of the notion of responsible gambling, saying major reforms within the industry were needed if the government was to make meaningful inroads into problem gambling.
Ms Emerton and Mr Costello are both advocates for changes to the betting limits on pokies.
“If we’re really going to tackle (problem gambling) it’s not just about addressing gamblers,” Ms Emerton said. “We know pokies are designed to get people hooked, and there’s a proliferation of poker machines in poorer suburbs.”
Mr Costello also highlighted the rise of online sports betting as an area which needed to be addressed by the gambling industry, rather than punters themselves.
Australians lost $815 million on sports betting across 2015, however localised data cannot be attained.
Mr Costello was critical of gambling advertising during sports broadcasts, which during round one of the 2016 AFL accounted for one in every six ads. “We know kids as young as eight can identify sports betting companies,” Mr Costello said. “It’s a predatory farce.”
A VRGF spokesperson said “we engage with industry regularly to encourage more responsible provision of gambling”.
“We are particularly concerned about the proliferation of gambling advertising and online gambling, and have called for tougher regulation.”