Victorians have lost $2.698 billion on poker machines in the state in the 2018-19 financial year, the second highest amount of losses since pokies were introduced to Victoria.
This amount is a $3.5 million increase on last year’s losses, and only slightly lower than the all-time record of $2.707 billion in losses recorded in 2008-09.
Once again, the Brimbank local council area suffered the greatest losses at $142.9 million. Other council areas with losses exceeding $100 million were Casey, Greater Geelong, Greater Dandenong, Hume, Whittlesea, Monash and Wyndham. The top 10 was rounded out by Kingston and Melbourne.
Epping Plaza once again recorded the highest losses for a venue in Victoria at $20.2 million, followed by Berwick Springs Hotel, the Plough Hotel, Kealba Hotel and Skyways Taverner.
Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman, the Reverend Tim Costello, said poker machines lead to the loss of much more than money.
“In extreme cases, poker machines cause the loss of lives via suicide,” Rev Costello said. “Then there is the loss of homes, families, relationships, jobs, cars and much more due to gambling harm.
“Pokies dens are designed to fleece people regardless of socio-economic background or geography, and especially target people who may be feeling isolated or lonely. That’s predatory behaviour.
“The Royal Commission into Financial Services exposed predatory behaviour in the banking industry and the community has rightly been up in arms about it. Victorians should be shouting from the rooftops about how the poker machine industry preys on people and seek an end to this exploitation in their state.”
Rev Costello said it was time the Victorian Government responded to gambling harm as a public health issue akin to smoking.
“Smoking in bars was once pervasive in Victoria, not unlike the scourge that is poker machines, he said. “You couldn’t go out without coming home stinking of cigarette smoke. Now we can go out and enjoy ourselves without the effects of passive smoking.
“We call on the Victorian Government to outlaw the predatory and addictive features on poker machines that trick people into believing they are winning when they are actually losing money. These losses disguised as wins and near misses are just abuse of punters and are frankly immoral.”
Gambling reform advocate Anna Bardsley said she longed for a day when she could drive around Victoria without seeing signs for pokies everywhere.
“We are better than this as a state,” Ms Bardsley said. “We currently have one of the most progressive governments ever, yet we have these reprehensible machines sucking money out of people, causing immense harm. Imagine how much stronger our economy would be if people spent $2.7 billion each year on goods and services in Victoria instead?
“Gambling is a negative, when we should be focusing on the positive.”
Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe on 0491 209 436 or firstname.lastname@example.org