Problem gamblers say the coronavirus lockdown is providing relief from addiction

Gambling reform advocate Tim Costello says the coronavirus lockdown is a chance for poker machine reform. Source: AAP

Anti-gambling advocates say the lockdown is a chance for poker machine reform while clubs and RSLs say 100,000 staff could lose their jobs if they don't reopen.

A former problem gambler says the coronavirus shutdown has been a relief for poker machine addicts as Australia's clubs and RSLs push their case to reopen. 

Clubs and RSLs around the nation are reporting tens of thousands of job losses and millions in lost monthly income after being forced to shut up shop during the coronavirus pandemic. 

But Anna Bardsley, a former problem gambler, said that for those currently in the grips of addiction, the shutdown will provide a welcome break.

“The choice has been taken away from them and they are given a reprieve. People are saying I didn't realise how much money I was spending but now I can see the money is in the bank,” she told SBS News.

Clubs and RSLs say they have been severely impacted by the coronavirus crisis and are adopting measures to hopefully reopen early.
Clubs and RSLs say they have been severely impacted by the coronavirus crisis and are adopting measures to hopefully reopen early.
AAP

Clubs Australia has said it will lose $800 million a month due to the pandemic, and that 100,000 workers will lose their jobs.

Norths Club chief executive Luke Simmons said it wasn't easy to lose staff. 

“For the executive team, it’s been difficult. You have these confronting conversations where you look staff in the eye and tell them you don’t have work for them, potentially for the next six months. It’s very hard,” he said.

Clubs NSW is pushing the state government to be granted special permission to reopen, saying it has a blueprint of how to keep patrons safe from the virus.

“You'd see yourself come into the club, get your temperature tested, you'd see very few people because they would be socially distanced, they would be spaced out,” Clubs NSW spokesman Josh Landis told SBS News.

Gambling reform advocate Tim Costello said poker machines were dangerous, and states and territories should use the COVID-19 pandemic as a chance to pursue desperately-needed reforms.

"If guns are America's weak spot, ours are the pokie machines. People can't believe how the states have allowed this to get this bad,” he told SBS News.

Ms Bardsley said she just wanted to ensure those that need it most in this time of crisis get help and a chance to gain their lives back.

Readers seeking assistance can contact the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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