Lee Duffield

Edited by Lee Duffield
Freedom and Truth

Child area plan in pokie venue ‘a mistake’

Children exposed to gambling at a young age have a higher risk of being problem gamblers late in life. Photo courtesy of Jayne Andd

A national principle of responsible gambling declared in 2009 that children should not be exposed to gambling within gambling venues has had little success. Photo courtesy of Jayne Andd

An anti-gambling advocate says children who are frequently exposed to gambling venues and pokie machines are more likely to become problem gamblers later in life.

The proposal to build a soundproof children’s play area within view of poker machines in the Pink Hill Hotel in Melbourne has sparked fresh debate around the ‘normalisation’ of gambling in Australia.

Paul Bendat, anti-gambling advocate and founder of PokieAct.org, says children are “lured” into pubs and normalised to the sights and sounds of gambling culture.

“[This] will lead to a greater prevalence of problem gambling,” he says.

Judgements like the Pink Hill Hotel decision “are a massive, massive mistake.”

‘Water-tight’ legislation

The 1999 Productivity Commission’s report National Approach to Problem Gambling showed around 290,000 Australians are problem gamblers.

Mr Bendat says this number will increase without “perspective legislation” to control gambling practices throughout Australia and greater restrictions on children’s exposure to gambling.

He says a national principle of responsible gambling,  declared in July 2009, that children should not be exposed to gambling within gambling venues has had little success.

“Unless there is a specific type of legislation in a water-tight way saying, ‘you will do this’ – [gambling venues] don’t do it,” he says.

It is a legislative requirement for venues such as casinos to not permit children on the premises, except for restricted dining areas and accommodation.

Michelle Pillonel, Treasury Casinos’ Corporate Affairs Manager for South East Queensland says the Treasury Casino child play areas or child minding was “not on the agenda”.

“We don’t enter into that at all – we’re strictly 18-plus,” she says.

The Queensland Gaming Commission and Clubs Queensland were unavailable for comment.

Children ‘dumped’?

The designer of the Pink Hill Hotel, Mr David Gordon, wanted gamblers to be able to keep watch of their machines and children at all times.

However, Mr Bendat says there remains concerns about the welfare and supervision of children “dumped” in child play areas within gambling venues.

He says parents often do not actively supervise their children when gambling.

A card-dealer at the Treasury Casino says he frequently sees problem gamblers and has concerns about children exposed to gambling and possible child neglect.

“ [On-premise child play areas are] a pretty bad idea because it’s allowing people to be irresponsible by gambling instead of taking care of their children,” he says.

Related Links:

Productivity Commission – National Approach to Problem Gambling Report 1999

Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulations (VCGR)  – Decision for Pink Hill Hotel application

Paul Bendant, PokieAct.org – Make Pokie Places Kid Free

Gambling Help – Helpline and Advice

Gamblers Anonymous – Recovering from Addiction