There is a multi-billion dollar empire in Australia built on tears and suffering and the deaths of thousands of people, many who reside in high-ethnic, low socio-economic regions.

It’s no secret that the gambling industry is strategically placing more gaming machines at venues in densely populated Melbourne’s north and western regions targeting the most vulnerable members of our community.

The effects of gambling addiction are evident in the higher prevalence of family violence, crime and substance abuse in these regions.

There has never before been a greater urgency for our communities to raise awareness of the gambling harm epidemic.

There is no one word to describe the overwhelming emotions and reactions of people who’ve watched the eye-opening, explosive documentary Ka-Ching – Pokie Nation.

Carolyn Hirsh – former politician for Victoria and survivor of gambling addiction

On Wednesday 21 March, Hume City Council, in partnership with Connections @ Craigieburn invited their community to a screening of Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation at the Hume Global Learning Centre in Craigieburn in Melbourne’s outer north.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion with guest speakers: Associate Professor Samantha Thomas from Deakin University; Julie Jensen, a Therapeutic Counsellor with Banyule Community Health and Gambler’s Help Northern and North West; Lyn Dundon, Gambling Harm Project Coordinator with the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria; and Bill Veerman, a community educator with lived experience of problem gambling.

One point that the Ka-Ching Pokie Nation documentary highlights is that it doesn’t matter if you’re amongst the most vulnerable or the most established in our communities, gambling is a serious addiction which is now scientifically categorized in the same section as substance addictions, right up there with heroin.

In the documentary, Carolyn Hirsh, former politician for ALP, describes the pokies as being “like opium dens” as she describes her long road to recovery from her gambling addiction which has resulted in her losing so much.

Marcus Fortunato designer of poker machines for major gambling companies

There is an urgent need to raise awareness in our communities on the science and the team of mathematicians and programmers that are paid to ensure pokie machines are made in a way “the house always wins” at all costs.

There is now a proven direct correlation between gambling addiction and suicide, gambling addiction and family violence, substance abuse, crime, mental health problems, family breakdowns and the list goes on. (list of references below).

If you’re a part of a community group, a school, a youth group, especially if you reside in a high-ethnic demographic region, invest time and resources this year to raise awareness on the topic of gambling harm.

Ka-Ching Pokie Nation is one documentary every Australian must watch this year for the betterment of our communities.