Thursday, April 10, 2003

Ad shames gamblers:that's a shame for pokie owners

An advertising campaign showing a woman leaving her partner because he is a problem gambler has upset poker machine operators, even though it has caused gamblers to flood a helpline.

The television ads are "flat-out disgraceful", according to Penrith Panthers Leagues Club's general manager, John Wilson.

"[Making a link between] quietly playing the poker machines to having no food on the table is a gross exaggeration and a gross distraction to what is a serious problem out there," Mr Wilson said.

But each poker machine has the capacity of earning $72 thousand dollars a year from a problem gamblers family and their communities a spokesperson for Justice Action Mr Pissed And Broke said.

"What is required is more entertainment, live bands, singing and dancing. Perhaps where the whole family can join in and community groups can meet to have some fun without going home pissed and broke." He said

The TV and radio campaign featured the woman taking her children and leaving her partner after discovering she could not pay for groceries because their credit card had been cancelled. The five-month campaign, which ended in March, also included print advertisements suggesting family and financial distress.

The Gaming Minister, Grant McBride, said more than 6000 people called the Government's G-line counselling service during the campaign - 30 per cent more than the year before.

Some callers, most of whom were gambling on poker machines, said they had only called because the ads had convinced them it was time to act, Mr McBride said. One woman called to find out when the ad would next be aired "because my husband needs to see it".

But industry sources said gaming operators disliked the ad and some blamed it for a loss of revenue during the early part of the campaign. Sources said Star City Casino, which funded the ads through the casino levy, was also upset about them - a claim denied by a casino spokesman. He said it always supported ads promoting counselling.

John Thorpe, re-elected president of the Australian Hotels Association on Tuesday, said the ads had caused controversy because experts believed they were the wrong approach to harm-minimisation.

A gambling psychologist, Alex Blaszczynski, from Sydney University, said the TV ad raised awareness but also stigmatised gamblers.

It seemed to give the message that partners should leave problem gamblers, Professor Blaszczynski said. "[This] doesn't seem to be pretty darn sensible therapeutically."

Mr McBride's spokesman rejected the criticism, saying the ads clearly showed a problem gambler, not "an ordinary punter". Mr McBride said he would also review funding for counselling services to ensure the extra demand could be met.

By Shamed And Broke 10 April 03

THE PUBLICAN: One more dollar for the road? Doesn't matter what happens when they get home does it?

THE COMMUNITY: Good will matters if you want to run any business including a pub and club. If pubs and clubs are serving a community people will have good stories and meet regularly to socialise. What you do is what you get. Get off the table WILSON the monies for the beer.


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