By Dom O’Donnell

Inaugural Impact Fund grantee, the Alliance for Gambling Reform, is celebrating recent wins in its campaign for divestment from poker machines and for gambling reform more broadly.

The first of these wins came in March this year when supermarket giant Coles announced it had offloaded its pokies business in a new joint-venture deal.

After forming in 2015, the Alliance and its early campaigning efforts were key in bringing about Coles’ initial pledge to trial $1 maximum bets. This was a pivotal moment for the Alliance and support from the Impact Fund came shortly after, enabling the group to leverage the momentum built around the commitment from Coles and expand its campaigning.

Coles’ recent divestment brought about another win for the Alliance’s campaign—increased pressure on Woolworths, Australia’s largest pokies operator, to follow suit. Over the past few months, Woolworths has been facing mounting pressure from one of its biggest shareholders, Perpetual, who sees the company’s role in the pokies industry as a threat to its brand and reputation.

Earlier this month, Woolworths announced it was divesting from pokies. Alliance director and spokesman Tim Costello welcomed the announcement as “a globally significant moment for the gambling divestment movement, not unlike Rio Tinto getting out of coal”.

At Australian Communities Foundation, we are so excited about the progress being made in this space towards a fairer Australia.

Maree Sidey, CEO at Australian Communities Foundation, sees the long-term impact of the work of the Alliance.

“We are going to see a major shift amongst retailers the size of Coles and Woolies changing their position towards pokies and that’s an outstanding win, particularly in terms of the impact it will have in the reduction of social harm,” said Sidey.

The Alliance has also received ongoing multi-year support from the Reichstein Foundation. Echoing Sidey’s comments, Executive Officer John Spierings believes the tide is finally turning on the gambling industry thanks to the Alliance.

“The Alliance is a game-changer. It’s the force behind so many positive stories. Key AFL clubs including Geelong, Collingwood and Melbourne are exiting the pokies industry. Investing in pokies is no longer normal behaviour. RSL veterans are up in arms against an elite that preferences pokies income over the wellbeing of RSL members. Local governments are contesting applications for new pokies venues, and winning.

“ACF donors were invaluable allies for the Alliance during its establishment and early campaigns. They are also key supporters in enabling the Champions of Change program articulating the voice of people affected by the industry to be become influential advocates for industry change.”

In addition to the continued support from the Impact Fund and the Reichstein Foundation, the Alliance recently received funding from The William Buckland Foundation.

Grants Program Manager, Ferdi Hepworth, said the Foundation was supporting the Alliance in line with its focus on improving the lives of the most vulnerable in Victoria.

“The work the Alliance for Gambling Reform is doing to address the harm done through problem gambling, particularly to the most vulnerable in our society is critical.

“Our funding, which will support the Victorian project manager, will see the formation of a long-term ‘friends of reform’ group of MPs, and we hope that supporting this advocacy will reduce inequality and hardship in the long term.”

If you are interested in supporting this expansion of the Alliance for Gambling Reform’s advocacy work, get in touch with our grants team at grants@communityfoundation.org.au.

The 2019 grant round of the Impact Fund will be opening shortly. We are currently taking suggestions of issues the fund’s four impact areas should tackle this year. Contact Grants Manager, Georgia Mathews, at georgia@communityfoundation.org.au.