No Pokies Backflip: Salvos Favour Voluntary

The Salvation Army has denied it has backflipped in its support for poker machine reforms after a report said it had announced it did not back Andrew Wilkie’s mandatory precommitment scheme, favouring a voluntary scheme.

The Salvation Army on Poker Machine ReformSydney’s Daily Telegraph yesterday reported that the Salvation Army wanted a voluntary system with a trial of a mandatory system that would force punters to preset limits on how much they are willing to lose. The news was seized on by Clubs Australia, which said it was further evidence that Labor should listen to public opinion rather than Mr Wilkie, and dump the reforms.

The Salvation Army is divided into two autonomous territories and yesterday eastern territory – New South Wales, Queensland and ACT – director of social missions Paul Moulds confirmed the group backed voluntary precommitment but said this was not a new position and one it had held for months.

”If it [a trial of precommitment] works, we will support it,” Major Moulds said.

The southern territory, representing the other states, said the region’s full support for a complete mandatory precommitment scheme had not changed.

Mr Wilkie accused the pokies industry of ”resorting to threats and lies” to derail the reforms, accusing clubs in NSW of banning Salvos from fund-raising in venues and threatening to stop support for the organisation. ”That the industry is prepared to stoop so low as to intimidate and misrepresent an iconic welfare group like the Salvos just goes to show how desperate the industry is to protect its profits,” Mr Wilkie said.

The Age has learnt that Clubs Australia is seeking legal advice on whether Mr Wilkie’s comments, and more that were in a press release, are defamatory.

Mr Moulds confirmed that some clubs had told charity collectors that regularly visited on Friday nights they were ”no longer welcome”.

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