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Wollongong Developer Charbel Douna Advocates for Poker Machine Reform

A seismic shift is happening in the political landscape of New South Wales (NSW), with a growing focus on the consequences of gambling. There’s an increasing push for reform of the poker machine industry, and Charbel Douna, along with his brother Elie and their local charity organisation SWAG Illawarra, are among the advocates for this important change.

Charbel Douna addressed his stance in a recent post: taking on the harm caused by poker machines is far-reaching: “They’re not just benign entertainment devices; they have the capacity to disrupt lives. Advocacy groups like Wesley Mission have been vocal about the harm caused by these machines and the need for reforms. We would like to join them in addressing these harms”

Charbel Douna knows first hand from his work with SWAG Illawarra the harm that poker machines can bring to the least fortunate and their loved ones. They deal all the time with cases of the homeless and those in poverty who have been impacted by problem gambling, specifically with poker machines.

“I feel like a lot of our work with the homeless and less fortunate would be alleviated if the core issue of problem gambling – specifically with poker machines – was resolved,” Charbel said. He further added that he has seen cases of those on benefits spending their entire payment on gambling, while having to resort to charities like their own for food.

The statistics surrounding gambling and poker machine losses in NSW are sobering. The state holds the dubious distinction of having some of the highest rates of gambling in the world. In the financial year 2019-2020 alone, an estimated AUD 7 billion was lost to poker machines in NSW clubs, and another AUD 5 billion in pubs. This colossal loss amounts to roughly AUD 1000 per resident, one of the highest averages globally.

The Douna twins are advocating for a full implementation of the New South Wales government’s cashless gaming trial. Charbel Douna, his twin brother Elie, and SWAG Illawarra support these reforms and believe that further steps can and should be taken to ensure the well-being of NSW’s citizens and reduce problem gambling. They also emphasize the importance of education in addressing problem gambling. Public awareness campaigns can help people understand the risks associated with poker machines and provide resources for those struggling with addiction.

As we move towards a digital age, technology can play a crucial role in reforming the poker machine industry. Advanced algorithms can be used to identify patterns of problem gambling and intervene when necessary. Transparency in the poker machine industry is another crucial aspect of reform.

Charbel and Eli Douna further added that anybody with an issue with gambling and with poker machines should contact the gambling help line that is available throughout Australia by calling 1800 858 858 or to reach out to them or SWAG Illawarra for assistance and resources.