$1 BILLION saved on Victorian pokies since COVID-19 lockdown - Alliance for Gambling Reform

$1 BILLION saved on Victorian pokies since COVID-19 lockdown

5 August 2020

Tomorrow Victoria passes a COVID-19 milestone worth celebrating: $1 billion saved from being fed into poker machines at pubs and clubs around the state since the pandemic forced a shutdown.

Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, said this extraordinary saving to Victorians in just over four months demonstrated the blight poker machines are on Victoria, both on the state’s economy and the community.

“It has been awful reading about the lives lost to COVID-19 around Australia, and especially the devastating spikes in Victoria, and my heart goes out to the people affected,” Rev Costello said.

“We also feel tremendously deeply for the Victorians who have lost their jobs through this dire crisis. 

“But we have experienced a silver lining in all this -- the shutdown of poker machines in Victoria has undoubtedly improved lives for many people for the better, and perhaps even saved lives.

“These are just two of many stories we have heard about the benefits of pokies being locked down:

My brother has been working hard in many ways to cease gambling via pokies for about three years. The venues being closed due to the pandemic has helped give him his longest time between gambles. Time is such an important factor in breaking an addiction. He is so much healthier, mentally, emotionally, financially and even physically.

“During COVID, for the first time in years I have had money in my bank account that I could use to buy food for the family. I could even indulge in life’s little rewards like buying a pair of shoes.

“This is the reality of the devastation poker machines wreak in Victoria. They are machines of addiction designed specifically to leech money from people, and also our economy.”

Rev Costello said it stood to reason that much of the $1 billion in savings from poker machine losses would have been spent on goods and services, boosting the Victorian economy at a time when it is needed most.

“Poker machines are an effective drain on the Victorian economy. They prevent people from having the money to not only pay their bills, but to also do the little things in their community like buy a coffee and cake or a book from a local shop,” he said.

"Poker machines are not innocuous, they do the majority of gambling harm in Victoria because there are just so many of these machines plaguing our state -- roughly 26,400 in pubs and clubs.

"COVID-19 is presenting us with a unique opportunity to rethink the appalling situation all of Australia has gotten itself into with the prevalence of gambling. Australians lost $25 billion gambling last year, the highest rate of losses per head in the entire world. 

"We can come out of this crisis with a real positive if we can significantly reduce gambling harm. That will not only save families and individuals from inordinate pain -- including family violence, mental ill-health and homelessness -- it will provide billions of dollars to be spent in our economy at a time when we need it most.

“Premier Daniel Andrews has done such a tremendous job dealing with this seemingly relentless public health crisis, listening to the experts’ advice for the good of all Victorians. We really hope he will do the same when it comes to dealing with the devastating public health issue of gambling harm.

“There are many measures that can be taken to reduce gambling harm, including closing poker machine rooms at midnight and leaving them shut until 10am, removing the ‘losses disguised as wins’ designs on machines -- as Queensland has done, and introducing a maximum $1 bet.  

"Pubs, and importantly clubs, that operate poker machines will find that they contribute much more to local economies without poker machines. Research suggests it is far more productive to invest in hospitality than gambling, where we know for every $1 million spent on food and meals 20 jobs are created. Contrast that with a mere three jobs for the same amount lost in a gambling setting.

“We never thought we’d see airlines and other industries shutdown for the sake of public health, but that’s a tough reality we have faced and worked through. The benefits of keeping poker machines switched off are myriad, far outweighing any supposed benefit in turning them back on.

“But if poker machines must come back on, it should be done so alongside the introduction of considered and necessary measures for reducing gambling harm.”

Recently released data on Victorian poker machine losses for the 2019-20 financial year showed that just 10 local government areas (LGAs) accounted for 42 percent of the state’s losses.

 

Top 10 LGAs by losses

 

(millions)

% of state losses

1

Brimbank

$ 102.0

5%

2

Casey

$ 98.0

5%

3

Greater Geelong

$ 88.1

4%

4

Greater Dandenong

$ 87.4

4%

5

Hume

$ 85.9

4%

6

Whittlesea

$ 83.7

4%

7

Monash

$ 80.5

4%

8

Wyndham

$ 75.8

4%

9

Mornington Peninsula

$ 63.1

3%

10

Kingston

$ 62.1

3%

   

$ 826.6

42%

There were 28 venues around Melbourne where Victorians lost more than $10 million in just over nine months pokies operated in 2019-20 pre-coronavirus, including this top 10.

Venue

LGA

Losses

# EGMs

Epping Plaza Hotel

Whittlesea

$ 15,293,002

99

Plough Hotel

Whittlesea

$ 15,043,093

100

Gladstone Park Hotel

Hume

$ 14,406,838

86

Berwick Springs Hotel

Casey

$ 14,263,668

105

Skyways Taverner

Moonee Valley

$ 13,921,181

96

Kealba Hotel

Brimbank

$ 13,867,377

86

Keysborough Hotel

Greater Dandenong

$ 13,300,947

89

Excelsior Hotel

Whittlesea

$ 13,115,280

89

Bundoora Taverner

Whittlesea

$ 12,866,024

96

Rosstown Hotel

Glen Eira

$ 12,600,779

103

TOTALS

 

$ 138,678,189

949


Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe on 0491 209 436 or rebecca.thorpe@agr.org.au