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Pokies: a submission

June 18, 2013


pokies At the end of last year our Church voted not to receive funding from Pokies. This decision meant that I have been able, with confidence, to prepare a submission to the DCC during the debate over the ‘Sinking Lid Policy’. Here is the text of my verbal submission which I will present tomorrow afternoon:


I am a Presbyterian Minister in Dunedin. Others will know about health science and statistics. I am happy to let them make submissions on those matters. I want to make a contribution as a member of one community with a unique perspective and with a concern for the welfare of the city (i.e. the church)


One way of describing what the church is (albeit an incomplete way) is to say that it is a communal form of therapy. We are a community in therapy… and in our context one of the main things we need therapy for is the consumer society – the constant search for more, for the next product, ‘the American Dream’, the hope for the ‘big time’, shopaholicism, etc. As a communal form of therapy we acknowledge that we have a problem and so does the rest of society. Our faith is (in part) a constant struggle against unhealthy and unsustainable ways of living.


From this perspective Pokies Machines appear to us to be a particularly finely tuned way of harnessing technology in service of greed (to use an old-fashioned term for the insatiable desire for more). They are created by multinational corporations (for whom greed is a virtue rather than a vice) and their first victims are those most vulnerable to addiction. As such, these machines are destructive of human being and of community.


This may not be a forum on what a good community looks like, but I believe that all religious and philosophical traditions bring ideas and assumptions about this to bear on questions like this.


This is also not a submission for a moratorium on capitalism. I am happy to leave that for another occasion.


However, as a leader in a Christian community that believes that property and resources are for sharing and that ‘enough’ is a word that we need to rediscover the meaning of… I submit to you that Pokies represent a direct assault on this tradition aimed at the most vulnerable members of our society.


Inasmuch as the ‘Sinking Lid Policy’ represents a desire on the part of the DCC to resist this assault on our tradition, and, in our view to resist something which is destructive of this society as a whole, I commend it to you.


In conclusion: a brief response to the large advertisement by the Lion Foundation circulated with Saturday’s ODT. It reminded me very much of the ominous slogan chanted by the villagers in the movie ‘Hot Fuzz’ – ‘the common good’. It is a good thing that government requires a significant proportion of Pokies profit to fund charity. It would be better if that funding came from less destructive and addiction-producing sources. My submission is, in part, meant to be a voice in defence, not only of the 900 plus Problem Gamblers in Dunedin (on conservative estimates), but of the families who surround these addicts and whose lives are devastated by the problem: people like the little girl sitting outside Mitchell’s Tavern in Caversham at 2 in the afternoon the other day, who’d only had breakfast that day and had been waiting for mum for over two hours; the many folk around this city whose life-savings were lost by con-man and lawyer John Milne. It is in defence of these people and their families, who are in danger of being sacrificed on the altar of the Lion Foundation’s good deeds that I speak today


Feedback welcomed!



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