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Govt must act to curb gambling losses: MP

AAP logoAAP 23/08/2016 Andrew Drummond

Poker machines are mostly to blame for Australia's increasing gambling losses and federal parliament has the power to fix the problem, MP Andrew Wilkie says.

Australian Gambling Statistics show the nation's total gambling expenditure for the 2014-15 financial year, including racing, gaming and sports betting, was $22.7 billion.

The overall loss is an increase of 7.7 per cent on the previous year.

"More than half of that loss is from poker machines and almost half of that poker machine loss is from problem gamblers," Mr Wilkie said.

"Why governments haven't acted before this beggars belief and I'm hopeful there are enough people in this government to see the opportunity to finally do something."

Poker machine reform would prove a test of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the Hobart-based MP said.

"What's more important for him and the federal government? The big, fat cheques he gets in donations from the poker machine industry or the harm being experienced by an enormous number of Australians on account of problem gambling?"

Mr Wilkie said he knew of families who could not afford to eat or pay rent because of their gambling losses, and in some cases the subsequent debts had cost lives.

"The federal government has it within its power to start fixing this as soon as parliament resumes - it can legislate immediately to introduce effective harm minimisation measures, such as $1 maximum bets."

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said he would not be pushing for "anything beyond where we landed where we were last in government on those issues".

"I don't doubt there will be a debate and in the first instance what will most matter is how the government responds to that debate," he told Sky News on Tuesday.

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