Lifeline Central West executive director Alex Ferguson says a closer look at online betting is needed if problem gambling is to be addressed.
Mr Ferguson said he was concerned an attempt by The Greens in NSW to get poker machine regulations changed was an attack on ‘low-hanging fruit’ and wouldn’t address the whole industry.
He said there was the danger some gamblers would just look at other options to gamble if poker machines weren’t as readily available.
“I appreciate the political thrust is a ban on poker machines. It started with Xenophon, Wilkie and others saying ‘ban pokies, they are the nastiest things in the world’,” Mr Ferguson said.
“My argument is that poker machines are in licensed premises where they can be monitored, the state government is a shareholder and the figures are available, we know how much people are gambling.
“Under ClubGRANTS, a significant amount of comes back into the community.”
Mr Ferguson said money from the likes of the TAB did flow back to venues in local communities such as local race clubs but when it came to online sports betting companies, the money was channeled out and gave no benefit.
And he said unlike poker machines, which were given no advertising, online gambling agencies were infamous for their adverts.
“They are advertising on TV, radio and other mechanisms and they offer odds on everything from when someone will die to the fifth at Doomben, and anything in between,” he said.
“People can gamble from anywhere and I’m concerned that people under the age of 18 would also be able to access it.”
Mr Ferguson said Lifeline found about two per cent of all gamblers were problem gamblers, which by definition were people who suffered an addictive psychological problem
“Some people have an addiction to alcohol, some have an addiction to drugs and some have that addiction to gambling,” he said.
“The classic gambler uses two or three forms of gambling rather than limit themselves to one so to restrict government action to one form doesn’t make sense.”
The Greens spokesman for Gambling Harm Justin Field said he didn’t think Mr Ferguson’s representation was accurate, saying the evidence showed poker machines were the worst offender.
“Poker machines are overwhelmingly the largest form of gambling. Three out of four people who are addicted to gambling are addicted to poker machines,” Mr Field said.
“Poker machines are designed to be addictive with the noises and flashing lights and stronger measures are needed to stop them from ruining more lives.”