Tom and Anna Lawrence are taking up their father’s battle against poker machines

Tom and Anna Lawrence are taking up their father's battle against poker machines

Here’s a disturbing survey finding: more than half the poker machine players over 50 say they do so to help out their local club.In other words, they’re hooked on the idea that venues that rely on the misery of pokies addicts for 40 per cent of revenue are actually altruistic and require support from kind-hearted patrons.Anna and Tim Lawrence are leading a Proudly Pokies Free campaign  Photo: Dominic LorrimerHere’s an even more disturbing truth: the biggest players of pokies are not lonely pensioners but 18- to 24-year-olds.It’s time for young ‘uns to speak out against this cradle-to-grave pokie con that preys on vulnerable young people who, according to research, play because their mates do it, they are risk-takers, they do not believe gambling is bad, and they do not have a healthy sense of self.Got the bug: With one pokie for every 114 people, NSW has an estimated 50,000 problem gamblers. Photo: Virginia StarSo take a bow Tom Lawrence, 25, and Anna Lawrence, 29.The siblings lost their father Neil last year in a diving accident in the Maldives. He was just 60.Neil Lawrence made the documentary Ka-Ching: Pokie Nation. Shown on the ABC last year, it exposed the design features that make pokies evil. Remember, one is six people who play pokies has a serious addiction.”We wanted to bring Dad’s conversation from Ka-Ching to a new demographic,” Tom says. “Like lockout laws, pokies have a big dampening effect on the live music scene. And there’s so much indifference to them.”The siblings have established Proudly Pokies Free to push live entertainment instead of pokies at venues across Sydney and hopefully nationwide. Up to 30 pokies-free venues are interested so far.Think Russell Crowe when he took over Souths in 2007 and tried to turn the footy club into a no-pokies venue.”We’ve been trying to contact Russ this week, to get him along to our launch,” Tom says.Proudly Pokies Free kicks off on Sunday at the Oxford Art Factory in Darlinghurst at 5pm. Tim Freedman of the Whitlams will perform, presumably encoring with Blow Up the Pokies. It’s about the band’s founding bass player Andy Lewis, whose battle with gambling addiction culminated in his putting a whole weeks’ pay into the pokies and killing himself. He was 33.Tom and Anna reckon anti-pokies guru Nick Xenophon will try to make an appearance, too.Older readers will recall how Julia Gillard tore up a pokies reform deal with the senator’s lower house mate Andrew Wilkie. Having coined the slogan Kevin07 to get Labor into office in the first place, Neil Lawrence was “deeply troubled” by Labor’s backflip.”Dad worked in Pyrmont and walked past the Star Casino at eight every morning,” Anna says. “He asked himself, ‘Why is this place open?”. No one was having a good time. Just a bunch of zombified people playing pokies. From that moment he was really intrigued about what got people hooked.”Australian research confirms that many adult problem gamblers report having developed gambling problems in their teens; like getting mum to place bets at the local TAB in time for you to watch the daily double at Harold Park or the Richmond dishlickers; like wagging school to place a $60 losing bet on an odds-on favourite; or like drinking schooies at Randwick at age 11 and betting with bookies because they reckon you’r…

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