The pain of pokies has a wider impact

Calling pokies “the crystal meth of gambling” may seem extreme to those people who happily put a few dollars through these machines when they are out for dinner or a night out at their local pub or sporting club.

However the reality of gambling addiction can be just as insidious as drug addiction and the impact on families can be just as severe.

Local gambling support service worker Anna Angus is dealing with these impacts everyday and sees what gambling addiction can do, not only to the individual affected, but to their family and friends. 

Ms Angus also highlights another important point when she says the money spent on poker machines also hurts the wider community in that it is money that could be going into other local businesses.

The average spend of $23,000 a day in 2016-17 adds up to a reasonable annual wage every two days and would provide a significant economic boost to some of the city’s locally owned and run small to medium businesses.

Understandably local clubs and pubs would be concerned about the loss of income and in-turn jobs if this money was diverted away from poker machines – and some of them are local businesses or community organisations too – but as SA Best leader Nick Xenophon said when he launched his poker machine reform policy last month, money spent in retail or eateries creates a lot more jobs per dollar than money spent in poker machines.

Even more worrying perhaps than poker machines though is the rise of online gambling, which seems to be targeting a younger clientele – and they do not even have to leave home to do it.

Another concern is how difficult it is to quantify what people are spending on online gambling.

With between five and 15 people impacted for every one person addicted to gambling there is clearly a need for open discussion about the issue.

Ms Angus has called for gambling to be included in the Southern Eyre Peninsula Regional Public Health Plan, which is a great idea.

The plan acknowledges the health and wellbeing impacts of things like alcohol and drug use so why shouldn’t gambling be included?

Hopefully at the forum on April 17 will produce more community-lead solutions to what is certainly a community issue.