GAMING watchdogs are to be appointed in all Queensland casinos, hotels and clubs to help fight spiralling gambling addiction.
“Responsible gambling liaison officers” will be able to advise problem gamblers how to get themselves banned from gaming establishments and direct them to counselling services.
Queensland’s 1384 gaming outlets, as well as the TAB and Golden Casket agency, are adopting a voluntary code of practice to curb problem gambling, which welfare groups say is wreaking millions of dollars worth of social damage, tearing families apart and causing suicides.
Responsible gaming liaison officers and new rules governing the placement of clocks, ATMs and signage in gaming establishments are part of the code, to be unveiled next month by Treasurer Terry Mackenroth.
It is understood that clubs, pubs and casinos will train existing staff to act as gaming liaison officers.
The code of practice has been developed by the Responsible Gambling Advisory Committee, a group comprising representatives of gaming establishments, churches, welfare groups, gambling counselling organisations and the State Government.
Committee chairman Ian Macdonald, executive director of Relationships Australia which runs the Break Even gambling counselling service, praised gaming outlets for backing the code.
“People who are losing spectacularly are the gaming providers’ worst advertisement so it is in their interest to support the code,” he said.
“It’s a very progressive approach by gambling providers.”
Mr Macdonald said gaming outlets would not be able to ban problem gamblers without the gamblers first seeking exclusion.
“There has been some debate about possible third party exclusion – where a family member requests a ban – but that option is seen as being fraught with problems,” he said.
Major Queensland Online Casino Singapore company Jupiters has already appointed a responsible gaming watchdog – former Break Even head Mary Marquass, who is also a member of the National Advisory Body on Gambling.
Conrad Jupiters general manager Grant Bowie said about 2500 casino staff were being trained in responsible gaming procedures.
“We’re very proactive on the issue of responsible gambling because the community expects us to be,” Mr Bowie said.
He said about three to four gamblers asked to be banned from Jupiters’ casinos each month.
The Queensland Hotels Association and Clubs Queensland said they supported the code.
QHA president Jim Stewart, who is on the Responsible Gambling Advisory Committee, urged hoteliers to back the code “and not look for loopholes”.
“While relatively few people experience gambling problems, the community and industry should not turn their backs on those people who are in need of help,” he said.
Since the Beattie Government took office, the number of poker machines in Queensland has jumped from 22,000 to 31,000. Last year, the Government capped the number of poker machines for clubs at 280 and for hotels at 40.
A 1999 Productivity Commission report found that problem gambling affected 290,000 Australians, each losing an average of $12,000 a year.