Poker Machine Reform

How is it ok to profit off the vulnerable, even if the money goes to community good?  This seems to be one of the biggest arguments surrounding mandatory pre-committments on pokies.  As far as I can tell there are 2 main arguments against it, both of which are awful justifications.

The first is that it will deplete revenue for clubs.  Ok, so you’ll make less money because you’re taking less money off people who are gambling it away.  That’s a good thing.  If you are relying on others throwing their money away to make money, you probably need a new business strategy.  Clubs existed before pokies.  Taking money off problem gamblers who can least afford to lose it is an incredibly unethical way to make money.  I understand the argument that ‘it is the gambler’s choice to spend the money, therefore it’s legitimate revenue’, but I just don’t buy it.  We don’t allow heroin addicts free access to the drug.  We cut people off from the bar when they are too drunk.  Why don’t we do the same for problem gamblers?  There doesn’t seem to be a way to cut people off when they are engaging in behaviours that are harmful for them.  And yes yes yes, I know the nanny state argument, but I think that can often be a rubbish justification for being able to do whatever you feel like.  Yes, I think as adults we have the right to chose our own behaviour, and when and where we do that.  To a point.  At some point we have to stop being selfish and actually think about others.  It’s not all about you (or me).  It’s about us.

Rom 14:21, 1 Cor 10:32, 1 Cor 8:13 (and many more) tell us not to do anything that causes a brother to stumble.  Even if you don’t believe in the bible, surely that’s a good thing to do!  We need to look after each other.  Just because something is ok for me, doesn’t mean I should do in front of someone who struggles with it (or allow them unrestricted access to it).  You wouldn’t take a bottle of tequila over to an alcoholic’s place would you?  I know some people take this idea to extremes, and that’s not helpful either, but we need to find a balance, or at least not be selfish.

The second argument I have heard against pokie reform is how much community good the money goes to.  Ok, I see that some (even a lot) of the money goes to wonderful community things like sporting clubs and community projects.  But… that money is being taken off people who are vulnerable and can’t afford to lose it.  The end should not justify the means here.  Surely there are other, nicer ways to raise this money to support our community.  We must look for sustainable ways to support one another, not forget about those who are hurting (or are hurting themselves).

I am yet to hear a convincing argument (that doesn’t say screw the vulnerable, it’s their choice) in favour of unrestricted pokie access.  Personally I’m against them full stop (what a rubbish concept pokies are!), but we’re all adults and if you choose to spend your money on them, then fine.  But that doesn’t mean we get to take money off gambling addicts and pretend we are serving the community.


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