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Are pokies worth the money they bring in?

THE decision by at least two provinces to ban the use of poker machines is likely to re-awaken public debate on the pros and cons of gambling in this nation.
Social groups, including the churches, have on one side been harping on about the negative social impacts on families. On the other hand, the Government and businesses argue that the substantial revenue generated from pokies benefit the nation in general.
Last November, while tabling the 2018 Budget in Parliament, Treasurer Charles Abel pointed out that poker machines would continue to be a major revenue-earner for the Government. The gambling machine tax is forecast to provide K174.4 million, the National Gaming Control Board expected to pay K75 million in dividend, and the new 90:10 Statutory Transfer Rule to generate an additional K75 million. This is apart from the millions of kina donated by the board to charities.
But Eastern Highlands and East New Britain are not buying into that argument and want poker machines removed altogether because of the social and family problems they create.
Some have become so addicted to pokies that they spend a good portion of their income at the machine in the hope of a major windfall. When they don’t, they bet more and more, but the more they bet, the more they lose.
Kainantu and Goroka towns, in Eastern Highlands, before the introduction of pokies in the mid-90s, prided themselves in their agricultural produce – producing some of the best coffee, fruits and vegetables in the Highlands.
Then along came the pokies. Farmers, instead of depositing their hard-earned money in the bank or spending it on their families, head straight to the nearest poker machine.
Needless to say, their entire earnings would be gone in the twinkling of an eye, guzzled by the pokies monster.
It is a similar story in other Highlands towns such as Mt Hagen – renowned for its rich agricultural land from which people make their living. Likewise, down in the port city of Lae where farmers go on a gambling spree after selling their produce.
It’s not only the farmers who are affected by the scourge of pokies. One can witness the average worker, both men and women, public servants and private sector employees, squandering their fortnightly pay on a night of pokies and alcohol in Lae and Port Moresby.
There are real-life cases of people in this nation using their entire superannuation payouts on pokies.
They, ironically, are contributing millions of kina to the national purse through the National Gaming Control Board. They are funding churches, youth groups, women and sporting groups. It is an irony that their addiction to pokies and alcohol is making others happy.
The solution lies in conducting more awareness, beginning with the Government through the NGCB, to inform people about the dangers of being addicted to pokies, or gambling in general. Churches, although caught in the dilemma of receiving money from pokies through the NGCB, must speak out about the problem.
Like in alcohol and drugs cases, at the end of the day it is up to each individual when to stop and get out. They must know when enough is enough and stop wasting their family income on a machine chasing a get-rich-quick dream.
There is more to life than that. The National/Tech Facts


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