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Pokies’ link to violence debated - The Advocate

Published: 16 February 2017

A parliamentary inquiry into the future of gaming in Tasmania during hearings on Wednesday heard problem gambling was an agitator of domestic violence and child neglect in Tasmanian households.

Allina Thomas, from domestic violence counselling service Support, Help and Empowerment, said high levels of intense arguments in a household and subsequent violence were brought on by the strain of gambling addictions.

She said victims not only suffered physical abuse but financial and emotional abuse.

Ms Thomas said both female gambling addicts and female partners of gambling addicts were driven to homelessness or women's shelters.

Jen Van Achteren, from Women's Health Tasmania, cited an Australian Institute of Criminologystudy that showed 92 per cent of women who had committed fraud or theft offences were prompted to do so by a gambling addiction.

Christine Hiltner, from Australian Association of Social Workers Tasmanian branch, said children were often the most vulnerable victims of gambling addictions as child safety was often overlooked and unstable households led to emotional turmoil and detachment, financial deprivation, and often normalisation of gambling behaviour.

Branch vice-president Allyson Smith questioned whether support services funded by the Community Support Levy were being evenly spread throughout the state, saying that social worker services had been moved from regional communities like Scottsdale and Deloraine.

The Salvation Army appeared before the hearing with recovering gambling addict Robert Kreshl.

Mr Kreshl's addiction lasted 15 years and he claimed it stopped once he was homeless and near death from pneumonia and hypothermia. He said he became addicted after his first small win on a poker machine.

"I believed what was on offer in the jackpots and I was seduced by the money dropping out of the machine," Mr Kreshl said.

He said his father was a gambling addict himself; behaviour that resulted in the theft of $50,000, the loss of the family home, and emotional strain on his mother.

"I clearly remember one night, my mother stood in front of me with a kitchen knife and slit her wrists - all because of gambling."

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers