Gambling crime link ‘shows reform needed’

By AAP, The Age

Supporters of the federal government’s poker machine reforms have seized on a new study showing almost three-quarters of drug crime is linked to gambling debts.

The survey, conducted by a Vietnamese client services officer with NSW Corrective Services, found that out of more than 600 ethnic Vietnamese drug offenders in three NSW suburbs, 72 per cent had been lured into drug crimes to pay off gambling debts.

The government is working on new laws to allow problem gamblersto set limits – called pre-commitments – to the amount of money they put through poker machines.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who has campaigned for gambling reform, says the study is further evidence of the need for mandatory pre-commitment technology.

“The introduction of responsible gambling reforms will help problem gamblers to set their limits, to walk away from the machines and to stop chasing their losses and ending up further and further in the red,” the South Australian senator said in a statement.

“Those who campaign against these reforms need to just look at these stories of crime and desperation as a result of gambling debts, to understand why these changes are desperately needed.”

Senator Xenophon said “hundreds of millions of dollars” was being laundered through poker machines each year.

Another vocal gambling reform campaigner, World Vision’s Tim Costello, said the pre-commitment card system made a lot of sense because vulnerable people with gambling addictions were being recruited into other crime.

“This is overwhelming evidence,” he told ABC TV.

“The public doesn’t need to be convinced of this. It’s the vested interests of clubs and casinos and state governments who get money who have to be convinced.”

The clubs industry says the cost of the proposed new technology will send some venues to the wall, result in lost jobs and delay problem gamblers from getting help.