Club general manager Arthur Lysaught says the plan is worth exploring.
Club general manager Arthur Lysaught says the plan is worth exploring. Adam Hourigan

Salvos plan pokies 'raid'

PATRONS visiting clubs and pokie rooms around the state probably aren't too used to sharing the space with trained chaplains.

That could soon change under a new initiative proposed by Clubs NSW and the Salvation Army designed to help tackle problem gambling.

And Grafton District Services Club general manager Arthur Lysaught said the idea could be worth a shot.

The Salvation Army-funded plan - announced on the weekend by Clubs NSW CEO Anthony Ball and Salvation Army Major Paul Moulds - would see uniformed Salvation Army chaplains placed into clubs around the state to be available to counsel and help patrons struggling with a gambling problem or other personal issues.

Mr Ball said many problem gamblers in Australia suffered from pre-existing conditions such as illness, depression, loneliness and marital stress.

"By having a Salvation Army employee available at their local club, a problem gambler will be able to get help for both their gambling addiction and the underlying issue causing it," he said.

Major Moulds said in many towns and cities, clubs were a "town square," of sorts and said Salvation Army chaplains could do a lot of good having a permanent presence there.

"The other exciting thing about this initiative is that we may be able to identify people whose gambling is becoming problematic much earlier, before it leads to some of the terrible situations and consequences we hear about," he said.

Mr Lysaught said while he wasn't certain of the ins and outs of the proposed plan yet, the GDSC had a good relationship with the local Salvation Army and said the concept of having an on-site chaplain was worth exploring.

"If this project helps one person then it's been worthwhile - the Salvos are a great bunch of people," Mr Lysaught said.

"Problem gambling isn't unique to any area, it's across the board and if the Sally's can help tackle it, God bless them and let's hope they do a good job."

The proposal hasn't impressed Independent SA Senator Nick Xenophon though. He said gambling and poker machine reform was needed in conjunction with counselling and education to properly address problem gambling. Mr Xenophon said he questioned the motives behind the proposal.

"This is a cynical move by the pokies industry trying to buy respect by trying to associate itself with iconic and respected associations such as Salvation Army," he said.

The Salvation Army and Clubs NSW plan to trial the scheme at the Mingara Club on the Central Coast for 12 months before any further plans about a roll out are made.



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