OPINION: Gambling industry a protected species
THERE is something truly unsettling about seeing people playing the pokies in broad daylight.
It feels out of context. This should be an activity relegated to dark rooms in the dead of night.
Yet on many suburban Australian streets, the neon lights shine and metallic pings ring out, all throughout the day.
Despite heavy restrictions on advertising and machine placements in clubs, it seems the gambling industry in Australia is a protected species.
Take a look at Sydney, where sweeping lock-out laws were put in place throughout the city's CBD - with a clear boundary excluding the casino.
There is no denying, of course, that gambling is a major economic driver in this country. But there is also no denying its devastating impact on our communities. On the Fraser Coast alone, a staggering $5.1 million was lost to pokies last month. Our relatively small region is home to more than 1000 poker machines.
We needn't look too far to see the devastating effects gambling can have on our community. Families face crippling debt while the gambling juggernaut continues to grow and new clubs open.
So while it is refreshing to see clubs and the State Government make something positive out of this vice in the form of community grants, one has to wonder what more should be done to curb its insidious influence.
Because the reality is, gambling can be as harmful as illicit drugs. Imagine if you could easily buy drugs at a family-friendly club.