Mia Armitage with Jim Beatson and Rob Osborne
‘America has a gun problem, Australia has a gambling problem,’ says former Animal Justice Party candidate for Ballina and Northern Rivers based animal rights advocate Cathy Blasonato.
Ms Blasonato is still a member of AJP and says the group is calling for a royal commission into the horse racing industry in light of revelations from the ABC’s 7.30 investigative team.
‘They just keeping breeding more and more horses until they breed winners,’ Ms Blasonato says of horse racing investors.
‘And some horses, a lot of horses never even make it to the track, which is very sad,’ she says.
‘There’s a lot of two-year-olds going off as what we call ‘wastage’ and that is, they go off to be killed.
‘Very few of them actually get rehomed.’
Ms Blasonto told Bay FM’s Community Newsroom last Friday she wasn’t aware of any repercussions for anyone involved in the cruelty featured on the ABC but didn’t think an approach confronting workers would be politically correct.
The animal rights advocate is supporting a ‘Nup to the Cup’ event in Byron, at Elixiba restaurant, on Melbourne Cup Day.
QLD launches horse-racing inquiry
‘There’s been huge pressure, in fact Queensland is starting their own independent inquiry,’ says Ms Blasonto.
‘We would actually like to see a royal commission and there has been a huge call for that from the public,’ she says.
Ms Blasonto says she doesn’t believe it’s possible that former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell, now Horse Racing NSW CEO, didn’t know the extent of horse slaughter in the industry.
Official reports listed the percentage of race horses ending up at knackeries such as the one near Caboolture, QLD, that featured on 7.30 as around one per cent.
Pokie profits increase in the billions due to increased gambling ‘intensity’
Meanwhile, profits from poker machines in New South Wales have increased by around $6.5 billion on last year’s figures, even after the removal of machines from venues around the state.
Gambling reform advocates say machines are being moved from certain areas to others known for higher rates of gambling.
But NSW Alliance for Gambling Reform campaigner Dr Kate de Costa says sales increases per machine suggest the number of people gambling isn’t necessarily increasing but ‘the intensity of their gambling’ is.
‘That amount is going up, particularly, on average in pubs,’ Dr de Costa says.
‘Each individual poker machine in a club in NSW now takes in losses of about $53,000 each year,’ she says, adding, ‘it’s gone up dramatically for poker machines in pubs’.
‘Each pub machine now takes in losses about $113,000 per year’.
NSW Minister for Customer Services Vincent Dominello said the NSW government would invest $35 million this year into reducing gambling addiction harm.
But Dr de Costa says ‘daily loss figures are now up to $17.9 million ‘every single day all year round’.
Poker machine gambling a ‘public health issue’, says reform advocate
‘That is an enormous problem that is so big, the government should be addressing it as a public health issue,’ she says.
‘More than 90% of people who need help don’t seek it,’ she says.
Dr de Costa says current systems criminalise and shame gambling addicts.
‘In prison we see people who have embezzled enormous amounts of money from businesses,’ she says.
‘Poker machines have had millions of dollars spent designing them to addict people who sit in front of them,’ she says.
‘Those people should really be considered to be victims.’