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Bet a Life

23 February 2001

AUSTRALIA – Feb. 23, 2001 – As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald: ``Christopher Reynolds was a 28-year-old milkman when he started gambling heavily at the Katoomba RSL Club in the early 1990s, hitting the poker machines between his morning and evening deliveries.

``...In a three-month period, the club cashed cheques for more than $21,000. Over two years, Reynolds claims to have lost more than $100,000. He can document $57,000 in losses through cash being made so readily available to him by the manager.

``At one stage in his downward spiral into debt, he asked the club manager not to cash his cheques or give him credit, even if he begged for it.

``... But when Reynolds, thinking himself cured after attendances at Gamblers' Anonymous, returned to the venue, the same easy credit came his way.

``...In the 1999 District Court case that examined whether the Katoomba RSL Club had had a duty of care to Reynolds, and owed him the $57,000, Acting District Court Judge Alan Hogan grappled with the issue at the heart of gambling - how much responsibility resides with the individual; how much with the club?

``The question was touched on again this week in a case brought against O'Malley's Hotel in Kings Cross, which was ordered to pay a "pathological gambler", Simon Famularo, more than $85,000 to settle his credit card bill after it extended him credit on his American Express card to gamble. Under the merchant agreement with AMEX, the hotel was not entitled to extend cash advances.

``In the Katoomba RSL case, however, the judge decided in December 1999 Reynolds was "responsible for his own actions". He could have imposed "a limit upon his own gambling" and stopped when he reached it, the judge said.

``...Last year, the State Government introduced laws to promote responsible gambling. A gambler today can't cash a cheque for more than $400 in a venue in one day, for example. The cheque can't be made out to a third party, such as a business. And ATMs can't be placed in the gaming area.

`` But the real test will come next month when the Government responds to more radical proposals from the Liquor Administration Board.

``These would reduce the maximum bet on a pokie machine from $10 to $1, for example, and make it impossible to slip $50 and $100 notes into the machines.

``As well, the rate at which machines operate would be slowed down so that a gambler could feed $10 through a machine every five seconds instead of - as is the case now - every 3.5 seconds..."

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