Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Getting Self-Barred in Adelaide

My first pokie enquiry. I learnt a lot today about a procedure that supposed to be the answer to end a gambler's pokie problem. Just sign up to be self-barred and your favourite pokie place won't let you in the door. End of problem. It couldn't be simpler.

But like everything involved with pokies - nothing is simple.

There was about 5 hours of submissions made to the 7 members of the South Australian Independent Gambling Authority. Two audio visual guys wrestled with the powerpoint technology. Two staff from the Authority were on hand to make sure the right legal points were made.

Gambling industry companies and lobby groups made submissions. They talked about how they help people to control their gambling.

Two smart technology companies made submissions. They both spruicked electronic devices that would allow gamblers and the pokie operators to control gambling.

A submission was made on behalf of the mentally handicapped who, by definition have no control over their gambling.

A nervous but eminently qualified gambling therapist made a submission after some prodding from the Authority's staff about how he tries to help people to control their gambling.

The authority did a terrific job of letting everyone have their say.

My own submission presented the evidence I gathered about the posting of self-barring signs at Woolies and Coles venues. My conclusion was that they did nothing to inform gamblers about self-barring itself. Even their performance in posting warning notices to those already self-barred was uneven.

I read from the Anglicare submission where it pointed to gambler's not being aware of the availability of self- barring.

And at the end I was asked by the Authority if I thought that self-barring was important enough to get its own mention in what was posted at a pokie room. Wasn't the promotion of a helpline enough?

I really did not know how to answer that and hesitated before responding.

After all, this was an inquiry into self-barring. Thousands of dollars of state and private money were being spent. Someone must think it important. How could one make recommendations about its effectiveness if problem gamblers themselves were not aware of it unless they called a helpline and the counselor at the other end of the phone told them about it?

My response was both correct and quite wrong. I said that because I have no experience as a gambling counselor I could not prioritise what messages should be pushed within a pokie area. While that's true, I should have just said promotion of as helpline isn't enough. If gamblers are going to have any chance of self-help through self-barring they need to know about it themselves.

The absence of promotion about self-barring shuts out any message from within the pokie area about ceasing to gamble. The message of "Gamble Responsibly" sets the context for the helpline and avoids recognition that pokie gambling is harmful. Telling gamblers about self-barring recognises that pokie gambling is harmful for some. The solution is that they should just stop.

No one promotes "Responsible Smoking". It is a "Quitline" not a "Helpline". It is time for the same strategy to apply to problem gambling.

Nothing is simple.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I barred myself 4 months ago, I filled in the forms at a "woolworths" hotel. I was told it takes two weeks to enforce and I would get a letter from the gambling authority on what I could do and not do.
To date I have received nothing, I still go to the same hotel (drink but don't gamble)
My understanding is I can still gamble at the casino (as the casino comes under another gambling law) and I regularly get invites with free money to attend the casino.

I don't need councilling, but I don't like getting tempting letters for me to gamble.

The system for self barring, does not work as well as it should.