Australians enjoy a good punt now and then. Having a flutter at the races and playing a game of two-up on Anzac day is as Australian as a meat pie at the footy.
But many Australians are gambling away their entire family budgets on the pokies – leaving little or no money to spend on food for the kids, pay the bills or pay off the family mortgage.
One in six Australians who play the pokies regularly have a serious addiction. These people are losing on average around $21,000 a year on the pokies.
I think Australians would agree that no business model should rely on profits from people's misery.
And businesses that cannot survive without money from the pockets of pokie addicts and their families need to re-think their approach.
I believe that taking care of the most vulnerable people in our community goes to heart of Australian values.
More must be done to protect families, and particularly children, from poker machine addiction.
That's why the Government is introducing changes in gambling venues that will help pokie players set limits on how much they want to spend before they start playing, and stick to them.
The multi-billion dollar pokie industry maintains that it does not rely on money from poker machine addicts, but also claims that 40 per cent of its revenue is on the line.
The industry can't have it both ways.
An expert economic advisory group – the Productivity Commission - found that 40 per cent of pokie revenue comes from the losses of people with a gambling problem.
Gaming venues that have already put in place responsible gambling practices will not be significantly affected by these changes.
These reforms are not about a crackdown on clubs, they are about helping Australians who are addicted to pokies and can't stop once they are in front of a machine.
The club and pub industry also claims that the Government will tell people how much they can gamble, by issuing a license to play the pokies.
This is wrong.
The changes to poker machines are not about the Government controlling people's money; in fact, they are quite the opposite.
We want to give problem gamblers a tool to help them better manage their own money and make decisions about how much they can afford to lose on the pokies.
The Government will not tell people how much to spend. Players can set their own limits.
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