The man who led Australia’s only national inquiry into gambling has broken his silence to press State governments for stronger action on problem gambling.
Mr Robert Fitzgerald was associate commissioner to the Productivity Commission’s 1998-99 inquiry into gambling. The inquiry found that 290,000 Australians had gambling problems costing up to $5.6 billion a year in social damage.
Mr Fitzgerald has not commented on gambling since the release of the report, believing that governments, the gambling industry and the community should be left to make the best use of the commission’s work.
This week Mr Fitzgerald told The Australian Financial Review he welcomed the many State and Territory initiatives on problem gambling Pengeluaran SGP that followed the commission’s November 1999 report.
But he said he did not believe that the reforms had made inroads into the core of problem gambling.
Mr Fitzgerald, the NSW community services commissioner, refused to comment on specific reform measures, including the NSW Government’s proposed gaming reform package announced last week. He stressed, however, that the State reforms so far had been only a “starting point” for further action.
He said there was clear evidence that the social and economic damage caused by problem gambling was getting worse.
“This is not only in relation to family breakdown and financial distress, but also in more profound areas such as homelessness.
“Whilst much of this is anecdotal, there is no doubt that gambling is showing up more frequently as a cause of social distress than previously, which would further give weight to the Productivity Commission’s findings.
“If anything, the [Productivity Commission] report was conservative in terms of the levels of the social impacts of gambling.”
Mr Fitzgerald’s observations are consistent with Salvation Army figures indicating that 10 per cent of its homeless clients suffer from “gambling-induced poverty”.
He said he was concerned by a La Trobe University finding that State governments expected gambling revenue to grow until 2005.
Research by a La Trobe senior research fellow, Mr Charles Livingstone, shows that in 2005 Victoria will rely on gambling for almost one-fifth of State revenue.
Mr Fitzgerald said problem gambling would grow and “become even more an issue for governments over time” if no action were taken