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January 26, 2021

Kickin’ the Punt responds to proposed NSW pokie reforms

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Ben Hamilton from Kickin’ The Punt. Photo David Lowe.

Ben Hamilton from Ballina-based gambling reform group Kickin’ the Punt has reacted to NSW Minister Victor Dominello’s proposal of a gambling card to be used by gamblers in poker machine venues. Under the proposed sweeping reforms, NSW will move to completely cashless poker machines and all gamblers will be required to register for a government-issued gambling card, and pre-load money to the card in a similar way to the Opal cards for public transport.

The card would be linked to the state’s exclusion register, to ensure self-excluded gamblers could not use their cards.

The Indue-style ‘pre-commitment card’ is proposed as a way of controlling pokie losses, which have skyrocketed since clubs and pubs were re-opened following the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Hamilton said, ‘There’s been lots of talk about the proposed legislation the last few days. It’s encouraging that reform is on the table, but I would stress to everyone not to get their hopes up.

‘The single best “solution” in my eyes is a digitised self exclusion policy that is law and enforced. If venues do not comply, they receive a substantial fine. There will be some people that refuse to self-exclude, that’s the reality of the situation we are all in.

Teaser poster for the first Kickin’ The Punt documentary, releasing soon.

‘There are a lot of us who hit rock bottom, see the truth of the situation, be honest and accountable with ourselves, and self-exclude.

‘That’s what will break the cycle for a lot of people and help them conquer the gambling demon.

‘Pre-commitment cards aren’t a good idea in my opinion. While I see some merit in the idea, it really does complicate the issue and open the reforms up for scrutiny and abolishment,’ said Mr Hamilton.

‘If the gambling industry did what it should do, i.e. monitor their punters, have a duty of care, make sure people aren’t f**king their lives up, and utilising the self-exclusion program, a lot of people will be spared from the misery of the gambling demon.

‘Keep it simple to start off with,’ Mr Hamilton suggests.

‘A person at the door, checking ID, making sure you’re not self-excluded. A trained person on the floor to spot gamblers who are hurting themselves and others, it’s easy to spot. Helping people self exclude and get treatment once they have self excluded. That’s my two cents anyway.’

Pokies in parliament

Ben Hamilton addresses the NSW parliamentary committee via Zoom. Screenshot.

Mr Hamilton recently spoke via Zoom to a NSW Parliamentary Committee chaired by Greens MLC David Shoebridge, looking at venue recovery plans from the perspective of a ‘lived experience advocate’.

He told the committee that he’s only now starting to recover financially after giving up the pokies a year ago. Mr Hamilton said the addiction, ‘takes everything, and so much more’ than just measurable financial losses.

‘The machines are designed to condition people, and they do that well, particularly when people are very vulnerable, and people are particularly vulnerable since COVID.’

‘People are gambling more and it’s a recipe for disaster,’ he said.

In response to industry claims that clubs and pubs would collapse without pokie revenue, the Alliance for Gambling Reform’s Dr Kate Da Costa pointed to the example of a pokies-free Western Australia, where no such collapse has occurred.

Kickin’ the Punt are currently putting the finishing touches on their first documentary, which covers the tragic story of Gary Van Duinen, and was crowd-funded by the general public.

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  1. Full marks to Ben Hamilton. But if some card arrangement does come it will be nobbled in some way such as being voluntary. We have seen it all before. This is just another talk-fest, another media stunt. Call me negative but for two and a half decades I have seen ignorant judges imprisoning hapless men and women for excessive periods, politicians lining up to implement the wishes of the gambling industry and the big boys behind it, seen gambling addiction increase many fold, seen good families shattered and thrown into poverty, seen good people turned into liars, thieves and worse. I have witnessed the setting up of a deep-rooted network designed to deflect the widespread public revulsion and I have to take my hat off to the gambling industry. The industry executives must look at the general public and laugh themselves sick. This is just another piece of bunco. Gaming machines are very, very dangerous and should be made illegal.

  2. It’s said that ‘evil prevails when good men fail to act’. Ben Hamilton is a perfect example of what ‘good men’ means. He has risen up from the devastation brought upon him by the trickery and deception of these engineered addiction machines and now reaches out to help others who have gone through, going through or may be at risk of going through the same devastation. Thank you Ben for your courage and determination 🙏 In my opinion based on my knowledge and experience I am 100% convinced the Government (all Governments since the legalising of poker machines) are totally responsible for the devastation inflicted on the people of NSW by poker machine manufacturers, owners and operators. The Government legalised these machines and have known for decades about the trail of destruction to tens of thousands of human lives including death that these machines have caused. What have they done about it to genuinely minimise the horrific harm – NOTHING!! Self interest of the greedy few including the Government and members of the Gambling Mafia has come before the health and safety of the people of NSW. The time has come for the Government to show the strength of its backbone – will they give priority to the health and safety of the people of NSW or continue on the same cowardly road of bending to the Gambling Mafia? Effective reform must be legislated as a matter of urgency without placing the burden on venue staff like they do now with the current self exclusion scheme. It’s appalling when you consider how far technology has progressed over the years, yet somehow this multi billion dollar industry fails to utilise it to genuinely minimise harm. My suggestion is facial recognition linked to the proposed card that should be built into the poker machines. I have spoken with experts and they have confirmed this is possible as it’s existing technology. The cost should be shared by the manufacturers since they too are making billions from these machines. This will remove concerns about people getting multiple cards and will also minimise the risk of money laundering and tax evasion. There are and has always been plenty of effective simple ways of reducing harm yet none are accepted and legislated. The time has come for real effective change!! Enough is enough!! The people of NSW deserve better!!


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