Many people wouldn’t know this, but Coles and Woolworths supermarkets operate pokies machines.This is about to change, with Coles leading the way, by divesting itself of pokies machines.Cr Mary Lalios, from Whittlesea Council, an advocate for pokies reforms said:“Coles have done the right thing by selling out to a KKR-controlled business called the Australian Venue Company. I hope they will continue the Coles advocacy for the introduction of $1 maximum bets.”“With Coles having successfully divested, the onus is now on Woolworths, Australia’s biggest and most ruthless pokies operator, to remove itself from the 12,000-plus pokies operated by Bruce Mathieson in the ALH joint venture, which is 75 per cent owned by Woolworths.”In addition, Cr Lalios said she was also delighted to see the emergence of a campaign by young Victorian veterans to encourage the Victorian RSL to fully divest from the predatory pokies industry.“It is truly inspiring to see and hear the comments by younger veterans, such as Camberwell City RSL President Dave Petersen, who make a persuasive case for RSL pokies divestment based on both financial and social grounds.”“There are currently 54 RSL-branded pokies dens in Victoria which are draining more than $200 million a year from gamblers, making RSL Victoria the 3rd biggest pokies operator in the state after Woolworths and Crown Melbourne.”“The Victorian RSL should get with the program and follow the lead set by Coles, Melbourne Storm, Collingwood, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs and commit to full divestment of their pokies division, which does nothing or very little to help veterans.”Pokies continue to make headlines with reports peak lobby group the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) made record political donations to the tune of almost $1 million ahead of Victoria’s state election.With a Federal Election just around the corner, now is the time to take a stand.It is reported the AHA imposed a one-off levy on pub poker machine license holders to help bankroll political donations, effectively funnelling community losses directly into the pockets of major-party and some independent candidates seeking election.Following record donations in the Tasmanian and South Australian elections, and the AHA spending undisclosed sums in an attempt to influence voting in the recent NSW elections too, it’s clear the socially damaging gambling industry is seeking to buy influence over our politics like never before.Poker machines are crippling communities and the gambling industry is using losses to stop reforms to reduce gambling harm. We must demand better of our elected leaders.Sign the petition to call on major parties to rule out accepting gambling industry money once and for all.Most Australians would be outraged to learn that gambling industry profits are increasingly being used to garner political influence.Together we must take a stand and demand those elected to represent us do not accept political ‘donations’ from the gambling industry, just as they don’t with other harmful industries like tobacco.This Federal Election, let’s tell our elected leaders not to profiteer from the harm of the communities they seek to represent Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram
Snowboarder Flo Orley competing in Haines in 2015. (Photographer: David Carlier/Freeride World Tour)Download AudioAn international big mountain ski and snowboard competition is back in Haines. The Freeride World Tour tests the skills of alpine athletes from around the world, with stops in five countries. The athletes say the slopes in France, Austria and Andorra don’t compare with the mountains in Haines.Residents in Haines might be surprised to find out, the peaks that make up our daily backdrop have a towering reputation across the globe.“I don’t know if people from Haines know how famous their village is,” Austrian skier Eva Walkner said. “All over the world, skier and snowboarder, it’s probably the most famous place in the world. And it’s the big goal for each skier to come to Haines once in a lifetime.”Walkner took first place in the 2015 Freeride World Tour women’s ski category. She is leading her category again this year. She says the experience of skiing in Haines is different than the more crowded, built up, European stops that precede it.“Here it’s so open, it’s so wide, you just need the [helicopter.] It’s so much bigger. It’s amazing to stand at the top and it’s just mountains. Crazy.”What is it about the mountains here that make them so special? Swiss snowboarder Anne-Flore Marxer says, because the mountains are so close to the water, the snow sticks on very steep faces.“And the way it builds up to those beautiful, ice creamy spines makes it so playful. Especially maybe for us snowboarders. Just perfect shaped terrain, and exciting and really technical and impressive and a bit scary but so perfect. For us, the one place you find it, you know it’s in Haines. That’s why we’re so excited to come here.”“The mountains in Alaska are famous, especially the ones around Haines,” said Austrian snowboarder Florian Orley.Orley might be the athlete who has competed in the Freeride the longest – 16 years.“Before Haines was on the schedule, everybody talked about qualifying for the finals [in Verbier, Switzerland],” Orley said. “And now everybody’s talking about qualifying for Alaska. Because this is a dream for every freerider in the world, to ride these spectacular mountains where the snowpack is so safe you can ride the steepest faces of the planet.”The pool of athletes is cut by about half before coming to Haines. Only the 30 or so with the top rankings compete here. Orley says this will be his last time competing in the Freeride. He says he’s looking forward to that moment where he’s standing at the top of the mountain, about to descend.“The moment you leave the start gate and you do the first turn, you’re so caught up in the moment you don’t even hear the helicopter above your head anymore. You’re so focused on the riding, sticking your jumps, finding your line. It’s like you’re caught in a dream and only when you are at the very bottom you’re waking up again.”It’s not easy for the Freeride to include Haines in its roster of competition spots. It’s the most expensive destination for the tour because of the remoteness and lack of infrastructure in the mountains. All the athletes and crew need to be flown in, in helicopters.Snowboarder Marxer says it’s a tough spot, but it needs to be kept in the line-up.“For a competition tour being called the Freeride World Tour…For freeriding, it needs to stop here in Alaska, especially in Haines, for the terrain. I think it would make no sense to have a whole tour around the world competing in freeriding without stopping by in this amazing place.”Now, the organizers will wait for the perfect weather and snow conditions for the competition to take place. Last year, they had to hold off until the very last minute before taking on the mountains. But the athletes say the wait is worth it.For updates on when the competition will take place, go to the Freeride’s Facebook page or website. It will be livestreamed at freerideworldtour.com. The Haines library and restaurants and bars plan to carry the live stream.