Port Lincoln council could lead way in state for gambling harm reform

The Port Lincoln City Council may consider leading the way in the state for gambling reform after a recent presentation revealed $165-million had been spent in Port Lincoln pokie machines from 1998 to 2018.

Aboriginal Family Support Services (AFSS) gambling help officer Anna Angus and Uniting Care's gambling help services counsellor Sue Olsen gave a presentation to the council last month on the effects of gambling harm in the community.

Ms Angus said Victorian councils had led the way in attempting to reduce gambling harm in their communities but Port Lincoln could be the first in South Australia.

"We think the total figure spent on gambling in Port Lincoln could be up to $300-million for all gambling avenues...all that money is leaving the community imagine if that went into small businesses," she said.

"At the moment nobody in South Australia is doing anything, I could not find one council's gambling harm policy.

"We need the community to start talking about gambling harm...it does not discriminate and gambling harm is silent."

Thirty-one Victorian councils and several organisations support the Alliance for Gambling Reform, which launched in October 2015, to campaign as a united front for reforms to the gambling industry to reduce harm.

Some of the reforms the alliance is suggesting include limiting maximum bet limits per push on pokies, reducing the operating hours of pokies, setting a limit on EFTPOS cash withdrawals and banning political donations by pokie owners, operators and peak bodies.

Councillor Jack Ritchie said a workshop with experts and with Ms Angus and Ms Olsen to work toward a local solution would be beneficial and the sentiment from other councillors was in favour of the idea.

"It's obviously a very serious issue in Port Lincoln," he said.

Ms Angus said for each person suffering from gambling harm, five to 10 others were affected and children were especially susceptible.

"It's a public health issue...80 per cent of 13 to 17-year-olds have gambled with friends, and children as young as 10 have gambled online," she said.

"People who suffer from gambling harm are almost 20 times more likely to display severe psychological stress and 2.5 times more likely to be depressed."