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InterChurch Gambling Taskforce appeals to public to check Pokie ethics.

The InterChurch Gambling Taskforce has made public the results from inspections it has organised of 69 Pokie venues around the State during 2000. The Taskforce is calling for members of the public to undertake further inspections, to see if venues are improving in their care to patrons.

"The results demonstrate that self-regulation by the gaming industry has been a failure in providing for protection to people with gambling problems", said Canon Ray Cleary, Chairman of the InterChurch Gambling Taskforce. "The Government has started to introduce enforceable consumer protection measures, but there is a long way to go. We call on the Victorian Government to introduce stronger measures and ensure that they are enforced. It is shameful we should have to appeal to the public to try and remind the gaming industry of their duty of care to patrons".

The results from the inspections, conducted between September 1999 and June 2000, found:

Only one in three venues displayed signage or brochures warning about the severe negative consequences that may result from gambling, despite the industry stating that their venues are asked to display such brochures;
Only one in four venues had signage or brochures explaining how Pokies work: a Commonwealth inquiry has shown the exorbitant losses that can be accumulated because people are not aware of the random nature involved in machine payouts ;
Over half the venues had an ATM, often located as close as legally possible to the gaming area, encouraging the impulsive use of funds beyond what people can afford;
Nearly 40% of venues had EFTPOS, again facilitating access to funds;
Only half of the venues displayed clocks in the gaming area at the time of the inspections, and even some of those that did located them in places that were not immediately visible to those playing the Pokies. Research has shown that people with gambling problems lose track of time;
Over 80% of venues displayed advertising material that emphasised winning, despite the fact that such advertising is likely to contribute to problem gambling behaviours;
Less than one in six venues displayed information about the program where people with gambling problems can have themselves excluded from certain venues; and
Almost all venues had Pokies that accept $100 notes. Large denomination machines can cause catastrophic losses.
On the positive side, almost all venues displayed signage and/or brochures promoting problem gambling counselling services.

The Taskforce acknowledges that the results are only broadly indicative of the situation in venues at the time of the inspections, but they point to the failure of industry self-regulation which has existed in Victoria since the introduction of Pokies in 1992.

"The industry, Government and Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority were all provided with results of the survey in mid to late 2000, but we are still waiting to see a significant response to the findings", said Canon Ray Cleary. "We do broadly welcome the Government's initiative to regulate gambling advertising. However, the gaming industry, with the exception of the Australian Hotels Association, has rejected offers to work with the Taskforce to develop a system of transparent inspections to ensure that consumer protection measures would be provided by venues."

The Taskforce is asking that anyone interested in inspecting a venue near them should call (03) 9251 5265. The inspections take about a quarter of an hour.

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