The Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher OP, has commended NSW’s political leaders for supporting the introduction of a cashless gaming card, saying the Church and its agencies see the human cost of gambling addiction every day.
“For some people, gambling is an entertainment they enjoy in moderation. For others, it is an addiction that not only causes financial loss but contributes to family breakdown, homelessness, and despair,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“Catholic parishes and welfare agencies pick up the pieces from these human tragedies every day.
“I support any reasonable measure to moderate gambling and especially to eliminate ‘problem gambling’.
“I commend our political leaders for mooting the introduction of a cashless gaming card as part of addressing this.”
Over $7 billion is lost on poker machines in NSW each year, according to research published in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Horse-racing and sports betting will rake in the same amount nationwide in 2023, and the industry is growing by almost 4 per cent year-on-year, industry analysis from IBISWorld shows.
Aside from the social ills of gambling, recent inquiries have shown that organised crime uses poker machines to launder hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
Archbishop Fisher flagged that further measures could be employed to cut down the harms of gambling.
“There may be other proposals also to reduce the social evils from abuse of betting and gaming, not just through poker machines but through smartphones and other avenues.
“I implore our political leaders and community clubs to work together to achieve much-needed reform.”
Premier Dominic Perrottet has committed to introducing legislation in the first sitting of NSW parliament should he win re-election on March 25.
Pubs and clubs would be given five years to introduce cashless gaming on all poker machines, including systems for gamers to set loss limits.
ClubsNSW boss Josh Landis caused controversy by saying Mr Perrottet’s “conservative Catholic gut” motivated him to pursue reforms, not evidence.
Mr Landis was sacked, but Mr Perrottet later said on reflection that his faith had contributed to his decision.
“It has developed in me a sense of social justice, looking after vulnerable people,” he said.
“I don’t think that is something I should be ashamed of.”
Opposition leader Chris Minns has also offered a suite of reforms in response to the NSW Government’s proposal, but has to date proposed a trial of only 500 cashless machines, compared to the state’s total of 90,000.
Archbishop Fisher joins other Christian leaders in praise of the long-overdue reforms, including Reverend Tim Costello, who is chief advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
“It isn’t perfect, but it is pretty damn good,” Rev Costello said.