Saturday, 4 August 2012
Problem gamblers are to be offered support from chaplains stationed in gaming rooms under a one-year trial as ClubsNSW moves to silence the anti-pokies lobby.
The Salvation Army, Anglicare and CatholicCare have signed up to offer troubled punters counselling, including home visits, in a deal worth more than $1 million.
The Central Coast's Mingara Recreation Club, one of NSW's largest clubs with 402 gaming machines, will be the first establishment which chaplains will patrol under the trial.
Anglicare will be paid for providing counselling services with a poker-machine levy in the trial, which ClubsNSW wants rolled out at venues across the state.
The Salvation Army will be paid by ClubsNSW to send chaplains into gaming rooms up to four days a week.
"Having a Salvation Army Officer at their local club, a problem gambler will be able to get help for both their gambling addiction and the underlying issues causing it," ClubsNSW CEO Anthony Ball told the Sunday Telegraph.
But anti-gambling campaigner Nick Xenophon believes ClubsNSW has a different motive for seeking the services of reputed welfare groups.
"It's an attempt to win respect by associating with such an iconic organisation and also to try and gag what has traditionally been a fearless and outspoken organisation," Senator Xenophon said.
Salvation Army major Paul Moulds believes the program will provide a good opportunity to assist and develop relationships with gambling addicts.
"The Salvation Army has always had a history of going to the people, and clubs are the modern-day equivalent of town squares," Major Moulds said.
Gaming Minister George Souris is in favour of the partnership, deeming it a "wonderful initiative".