19 May 2020
A silver lining has emerged from COVID-19 in Wyndham with the rejection of a massive poker machine application in Truganina, and more than $16.5 million saved in the area since the coronavirus shutdown of 23 March.
Wyndham Council unanimously rejected an application for up to 80 poker machines at 231 Leakes Rd in Truganina, but approved the application for an entertainment and commercial centre on the site.
Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, applauded Wyndham Council for recognising the harm poker machines caused locals by rejecting the poker machine application.
“Almost $300,000 per day has been saved in Wyndham since poker machines were shut down on 23 March, coming to more than $16.5 million in savings as of today, 19 May,” Rev Costello said. “That’s money that is paying rent and mortgages for people, and will be circulating through the local economy at a time when small businesses in Wyndham need the most support.
“We’re hearing some great stories of how people are no longer worrying about how to pay their bills because they now have money in their bank accounts instead of them being bled by poker machines.
“I know of one mother who is finally breathing a sigh of relief knowing her child can no longer blow his income on the pokies. He's finally eating and putting on weight as his depression is much improved since the pokies shutdown.
“This is the reality of the devastation poker machines wreak in Wyndham. They are machines of addiction designed specifically to leech money from people, and also our economy.
“Wyndham Council deserves a round of applause for recognising the damage caused by gambling harm and taking a stand against more poker machines. They rightly want safe and healthy forms of entertainment in Wyndham for local people and families to access, not mind-numbing pokies.
“That’s what we want to see as we emerge from this coronavirus crisis, venues that are hubs in our community, where people can gather once more in a safe and happy environment.”
Rev Costello said he felt for the people of Wyndham who may have lost work during the COVID-19 pandemic and hoped that existing and new venues would open without poker machines.
"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 to gambling,” he said.
“Poker machines are an effective drain on the Wyndham 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 toys for their children from a local shop.
"COVID-19 is presenting us with a unique opportunity to rethink the dire situation 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 awful crisis with a real positive if we can significantly reduce gambling harm in our communities. 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 local economy at a time when we need it most.”
Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe on 0491 209 436 or firstname.lastname@example.org