Ballina tradie and pokie survivor Ben Hamilton has kicked off a new anti-poker machine organisation in the Northern Rivers of NSW, called Kickin’ The Punt.
Mr Hamilton said the idea started after his last major gambling relapse back in 2018, which involved a suicide attempt. ‘My wife and I wanted to try something different, so we came up with the idea of Kickin’ the Punt with the objective of changing the way society views gambling.’
By trade, Mr Hamilton is a tiler and waterproofer. Echonetdaily asked him how many years he was a gambler. ‘I basically hit the ground running as soon as I turned 18 with pokies,’ he said, ‘and I gambled right up until towards the end of last year, that was my last bet. So, well over a decade of gambling harm with the pokies, and I’m clear now, since starting Kickin’ the Punt.
‘When I help people it helps me to stay away. I think I’m on the straight and narrow now, and I want to make a difference.’
Pandemic a lifesaver for gamblers
As has been reported by Echonetdaily, and confirmed by Mr Hamilton, a silver lining of COVID-19 for gambling addicts was all the pokie venues shutting down.
‘With the machines being switched off, you can’t play the pokies, so I think it was really good… a lot of people said they felt safe for the first time in a long time with all the machines being switched off, but now in NSW around 55-60% of the machines are back on.
‘There’s less people punting but the revenues are the same if not more as the same time last year, so gambling is getting out of control again now.’
After setting up Kickin’ the Punt with his wife Jasmine, the couple went to see Tamara Smith, the Member for Ballina.
Mr Hamilton said, ‘Tamara was great, she is someone who genuinely cares about her community. Obviously she has to look after all different issues in the community, so I didn’t expect a lot, but what she did say was really comforting to Jasmine and I.
‘She thought that what we’re doing with Kickin’ the Punt was a really important thing. She’s linked us up with a few other people in parliament that will be beneficial for us to talk to.’
Tamara Smith is also a supporter of Kickin’ the Punt’s first public action, a new anti-pokie petition on change.org, which is gathering signatures fast.
‘We launched the petition last night,’ said Mr Hamilton.’ The main objective is to have one…