Anti-gambling campaigners have urged RSL sub-branches to remove all of their poker machines throughout Australia.
Australia.- Anti-gambling activists are urging RSL branches and affiliated clubs across the country to follow the lead of the Tasmanian group and phase out poker machines entirely.
There are currently 20 poker machines in RSL clubs in Tasmania and all of them are located in the Devonport sub-branch in the state’s northwest.
John Hardy, RSL Tasmania’s chief executive, said he had reached an agreement with the Devonport committee to remove the machines by the middle year in exchange for more financial support from the state branch for veterans services.
Hardy said RSL Tasmania’s stance on problem gambling was influenced by a University of Melbourne study which found 40 per cent of Australian veterans with gambling problems had considered taking their own lives, while one in five had attempted suicide.
According to The Guardian, about 50 RSL branches in Victoria have poker machines, as does the state branch at its headquarters, Anzac House. In New South Wales, RSL is independent of the RSL Association of Services and Clubs, which operates poker machines across the state.
Monash University associate professor of public health Charles Livingstone said the divestiture of RSL Tasmania should inspire other government organizations to do the same.
The future of poker machines has become a key issue in the NSW state election campaign, with Premier Dominic Perrottet proposing the introduction of cashless gaming cards.
However, Hardy said RSL Tasmania was apolitical and the decision to divest was not influenced by interstate election campaigning or political debate.