Clubs' alignment with Salvos a "whitewash": Costello
06/08/2012 - ClubsNSW says bringing Salvation Army chaplains into its gaming rooms will tackle gambling problems at a personal level. Katelyn Catanzariti, Toby Mann
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But anti-gambling campaigners, the Reverend Tim Costello and Nick Xenophon, say the scheme is a crude attempt by the clubs to align themselves with the charitable organisation to buy credibility while ignoring the bigger picture.
ClubsNSW and the Salvos have announced a program to help problem gamblers to be trialled at the Central Coast's Mingara Recreational Club, one of the state's largest clubs with 402 gambling machines.
Chaplains will be stationed in gaming rooms offering support for troubled punters, including counselling and home visits, as part of a one-year trial to be funded by the Salvos.
ClubsNSW CEO Anthony Ball said the scheme would encourage those with gambling or other issues to seek assistance.
"That is a vital first step on the path to repair for these people," Ball told reporters at the South Sydney Juniors club in Kingsford on Sunday.
"We're not worried about the politics any more, we're just going to things in collaboration with great groups like the Salvos, things that work."
But Costello said the announcement was at best a "whitewash" by the clubs to disguise the fact that they don't want to lose their pokies dollars.
"They know that chaplains won't seriously affect their bottom line or see significant reform at all," he told reporters on Sunday.
The best solution to Australia's gambling problems were one-dollar bets and $120-an-hour losses, as specified by the productivity commission, Costello said.
"We all know what the solution is, but it's just that the clubs with their money and muscle are intimidating the government and are now trying to buy credibility.
"I think the Salvation Army has been caught on the hop here. They thought, it's one club where they'll trial it ... and suddenly they're a big story in partnership with the clubs. I think that's the deception."
Independent senator Nick Xenophon called the scheme a "desperate attempt" by the pokies lobby to appear respectable.
"This seems like a very tacky form of window dressing by trying to hitch themselves onto the credibility of a kind of organisation like the Salvation Army," Senator Xenophon told reporters.
"This is trying to gloss over that the machines are dangerous."
Ball said counselling troubled punters would be more effective than restricting gambling.
"Giving somebody a card to play, limiting them to $1 at a time, that's not the way you help someone with a problem," he said.
"If you look at other areas of public health, like alcoholism, you don't tell someone to drink beer out of a middy instead of a schooner. You try get them to identify that they have problem."
But Senator Xenophon said Ball's attempts to focus on the problems of gamblers were "disgusting" because they took the focus away from the problem poker machines.
"Isn't it much better to have a fence at the top of the cliff than an ambulance at the bottom?" he asked.
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