Pokies continue to polarise
A PUBLIC stoush between two prominent locals at Ballina RSL's annual general meeting has highlighted the widening divisions in the community over the proposed mandatory pre-commitment poker machine legislation.
Tempers flared and emotions boiled over after Ballina Seabird Rescue's Keith Williams attended the club's meeting in a private capacity to challenge Ballina RSL board members over their support for what he described as a "deceitful campaign" by Clubs NSW, after writing a letter to the Ballina Advocate about seeing the effects of pokie addiction first-hand.
Ballina RSL chairman Gary Hooley gave Mr Williams the opportunity to have his say but became frustrated when Mr Williams quoted what Mr Hooley considered were "inaccurate" figures.
Mr Williams caused a further ruckus when he published his opinions on his blog, captainturtle.blogspot.com, including accusations the chairman inappropriately referred to donations from the RSL to Ballina Seabird Rescue.
Mr Hooley admitted it was an emotional subject and tempers had flared in the heat of the moment after the meeting, but he firmly believed mandatory pre-commitment wouldn't help problem gamblers.
"The thing was he was questioning how much the club had donated, he doesn't realise that apart from those ordinary straight donations there are write-offs to sporting clubs and write-offs to charities," Mr Hooley said.
"My point was I found it ironic that he is a member of an organisation that wrote to us for a donation and here he is jumping up and down saying we don't do enough for the community."
Mr Hooley said there would be absolutely no prejudice applied to future funding requests from Ballina Seabird Rescue and all applications were assessed on merit.
Mr Williams wrote on his blog he couldn't protect two young boys from their father's pokie addiction and he wouldn't "stay silent any longer".
As accusations flew in Canberra after the Coalition released its discussion paper on gambling reform, Mr Williams said it was time to speak up.
"(This guy) hid it from his family and would steal from the house to pay debts run up playing pokies," he said.
"It wasn't other forms of gambling, it was pokies - going to a club intending to spend a certain amount of money and then hours later coming out of a daze and realising most of the week's wages had just gone.
"That's why I'm so passionate. Either we go with a pre-commitment technology or we just have one-dollar pokies."
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