Australia

Pokies king's honour labelled bad bet

Len Ainsworth's appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia has been criticised by the anti-gambling lobby.

Anti-pokies campaigners have slammed gambling baron Len Ainsworth's Queen's Birthday honour, arguing the industry's toxic influence shouldn't be rewarded.

But it has not fazed the 94-year-old billionaire who founded Aristocrat Leisure, growing it into the second-largest gaming machine company in the world.

On Monday, Mr Ainsworth was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to business and manufacturing and philanthropic contributions.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform's Stephen Mayne said the decision was disrespectful, given the enormous harm caused by dangerous and addictive pokies.

"Thousands of people have suffered gambling addictions and committed suicide since Len Ainsworth pioneered poker machines in New South Wales," Mr Mayne told AAP on Monday.

Mr Ainsworth dismisses suggestions that poker machines have caused widespread suffering and says 95 per cent of people who play the pokies do so for enjoyment without spending more than they should.

"It is a very small percentage of people who have very addictive personalities," he said.

"You cannot run the economy of the country for the sake of some small minority who think they have got particular rights or whatever."

But Mr Mayne said Australia had to stop rewarding people like Mr Ainsworth and start treating them like tobacco industry players.

"The gambling industry is just like tobacco," Mr Mayne said.

"Polite society should not be rewarding them in any way given the world record levels of gambling harm in Australia and the toxic influence it has on society."

Mr Ainsworth was partly honoured for the $30 million he has donated to charities, including the Sydney Children's Hospital.

The gaming tycoon described his appointment to the Order of Australia as an honour and said it was a privilege to be involved in philanthropic efforts, which have included multi-million dollar donations to Sydney Children's Hospital and St Vincent's Private Hospital.

"It is my pleasure to do those things and I am very glad that I can," he said.

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