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Bayside Council rejects proposal to minimise gambling harm

Council meeting sees passionate plea for harm minimisation measures from Tracy Yuen

Bayside Council has rejected a motion that proposed measures to minimise gambling harm in the community. Tracy Yuen, a local resident and the Greens candidate for the state electorate of Kogarah, spoke in support of the motion at the council meeting last week.

Councillor Greta Werner, who is also from the Greens, raised the motion, which proposed several harm minimisation measures to reduce the negative impacts of addiction to gaming machines.

The proposed measures included writing to the Premier of NSW and the Leader of the NSW Opposition to support several gambling-related policies, committing to apply for grants for harm minimisation projects, holding an annual gambling roundtable with the local community, and celebrating local pubs and clubs that are pokies-free.

A story of gambling addiction

Yuen felt it was time to share her story, “while we have the momentum and a rare opportunity to create change on this issue.”

In her speech, she shared that her mother was addicted to gambling, and the addiction consumed most of their family's finances.

"We never had birthdays, excursions, Christmases or anything that involved spending extra money. Instead, that would go into the machines.”

"But at least she came home at night, and her losses were capped because eventually we had no more money to lose," she added.

The scale of gambling losses in Bayside

There was over $35 million lost on the pokies in Bayside’s clubs during the six month period from December 2021 to May 2022. That ranks Bayside 18th out of 94 local government areas in NSW in terms of gambling losses in clubs.

That’s in addition to the $49 million in gambling losses during the six month period from January 2022 to June 2022 in Bayside’s hotels. Here, Bayside sits at 9th out of 88 LGAs for losses to gaming machines.

Yuen proposed that gambling controls limited some of the damage to her mother, and further limitations would benefit the community.

"The only things that stopped her were the things outside of her control. That venues had early closing hours, or were too far to get to, or her losses were capped when she ran out of money. And for people with gambling addiction, this is why harm minimisation controls and safeguards need to be put in place because they can't control themselves to stop otherwise.”

You can watch the full speech below (starting from 1:58:25).

Motion to minimise gambling harm defeated

Despite broad agreement from councillors that gambling was a significant problem in the community, the motion was defeated.

Independent councillor Paul Sedrak said “I think it's a devastating issue for all families, society, the community. It's one of those evils in our society that we see again and again and I commend Councillor Werner for putting this up and I see without a doubt that this is the future.”

“But in saying all that, this is a state issue”.

Werner took to Twitter to express disappointment in the outcome, saying that the motion was not asking for much from the council.

Yuen was equally disappointed, saying, “When I first decided to get involved in politics, I thought it was going to be challenging, but never thought I'd be sharing such a painful and personal part of my life. What's worse is the anger and disappointment in realising what our democracy is. It's all cooked."

Mayor Dr Christina Curry, who is also on the board of ClubsNSW, disclosed the conflict of interest and left the council chamber while the matter was being considered and voted on.

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