Jamie Hall says he was “about was seven or eight” when he was first exposed to gambling.
- Legislation introduced that would require Crown Casino gamblers to pre-commit to losses on poker machines
- Gambling addict advocates want the laws extended to all operators
- Carers say mandating the measure would reduce problem gambling
Mr Hall, 32, grappled with his own gambling addiction, eventually breaking free by imposing limits on the ways he gambled.
“It impacts all of the people around them, sometimes even further it can impact the general community where debt and money are uncontrollable so people steal,” he said.
He said it took him a while to succeed.
“I put some of the limits that are on betting agencies, betting apps, but I always found a way around those.
“It was probably about the third time of trying to stop that it finally worked,” he said.
The Victorian government today introduced “nation-leading legislation” in response to the Royal Commission into Crown Casino’s conduct.
It includes a condition that gamblers who want to gamble on poker machines will be required to pre-commit to how much they are willing to spend in a 24-hour period.
Mr Hall said the same provisions should be rolled out across Victoria, rather than just at Crown.
Does limit-setting work?
The Latrobe Valley has the third-highest number of pokies in regional Victoria while Latrobe Community Health Service has two teams dedicated to combating gambling addiction.
Clinical coordinator for complex care, Jonathon Fahey, said local trials and international trials had shown mandatory pre-commitment was effective at reducing problem gambling.
“Critically, what it does is allows people to make that decision in a balanced emotional state, because poker machines are designed to make people feel like they’re about to win,” he said.
Traralgon RSL president Ron Culliver, whose organization has 37 of the Latrobe Valley’s 521 poker machines, said he was not opposed to the proposal to broaden mandatory pre-commitment.
“I can’t see any objections with it, depending on how they’re going to do it,” he said.
“We have programs that allow them to self-exclude, so we already have things in operation to put them in contact with people to help with problem gambling.”
Down to the singles
Mr Culliver and Mr Hall said they had seen gambling addicts find ways around even self-imposed limits.
“They can exclude themselves from one club but that can’t stop them from going into another pub or club somewhere and gambling too, so it comes to the individual at the finish,” Mr Culliver said.
Mr Hall said the problem was broader than individuals.
“Destigmatizing the addiction side of it is a good thing, denormalizing the exposure to gambling, and not just putting it on individuals,” he said.
He said mandatory pre-commitment was a good first step.
“You’re not just waiting for someone to admit they’ve got a gambling addiction,” he said.
“There’s a lot of legislative changes that could occur, but until we start destigmatizing it and denormalizing it we’re not going to be doing much but putting a band-aid over a dam wall.”
A Victorian government spokesperson said today’s legislation was only in response to the wrongdoing of the Crown, not a reflection on the whole industry.
“This nation-leading legislation is about implementing recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and License and the Royal Commission recommended mandatory pre-commitment for Crown Casino Melbourne.”
Opposition spokesman for gaming regulation, Danny O’Brien, said the government’s reforms needed to balance individual rights to gamble while also targeting help for problem gamblers.
“My focus will always be to work with industry to ensure that we have a well-regulated industry that as best as possible protects people from themselves, those who need it, and allows those who go along to have a flutter on the pokies can do so,” he said.