POKIE addiction has plundered $27 million from the wages and savings of Central Highlanders in the past year.
Figures from the Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation show the floods in the former Emerald Shire had no effect on gaming machine compulsion with $10.35m wagered on the push of a button.
Patrons of pubs and clubs in Clermont and Moranbah fed $8.97m into the buck-gobbling bandits in the period from September, 2010, to August.
Blackwater, Bluff and Dingo pokie users kissed goodbye to $4.76m, while Middlemount and Dysart gamblers farewelled $3.05m.
Poker machine reform crusader Andrew Wilkie, the federal independent member for Denison whose backing helped Julia Gillard form government at the last election, continues to agitate for the introduction of a mandatory 'pre-commitment' smart card technology to set limits on the amount a gambler can spend.
The card has the support of the Queensland Council of Social Services, who have advocated for social justice throughout the state for more than 50 years.
President Karyn Walsh said just-released independent research showed 64% of Queenslanders would support the card as mandatory. "We hear all sorts of circumstances that have arisen from people losing their homes, unable to pay rent or blowing their inheritances, and while there is no data to statistically support these issues, anecdotally we hear about it all the time," she said.
"Parents, siblings, children - their hardship has increased due to excessive gambling." Ms Walsh acknowledged the fly in, fly out and drive in, drive out workforce in the Bowen Basin could be contributing to the problem, taken out of their homes and placed in town camps or environments where gambling was an accessible outlet for any variety of reasons and emotions.
She said the accessibility of poker machines across clubs and pubs had changed the playing field.
"QCOSS has always supported pre-commitment cards because we feel gambling comes in ebbs and flows and there are those who can afford it and those who can't," Ms Walsh said.
The Moranbah Community Workers Club's application for a further 35 pokies is pending.
A responsible gambler:
- sees gambling as entertainment, not a job
- doesn't take gambling too seriously
- only gambles with money set aside for entertainment, never with money for rent or food
- never borrows money to gamble, either from friends, money set aside for other things or credit cards
- sets limits on the amount of time and money they will spend
- sticks to these limits and walks away when they are reached
- recognises that you can't win in the long run and doesn't try to chase a win
- is relaxed and sociable, aware of family and friends and is happy to take frequent breaks