Victorian Government urged to support the arts not the gambling industry - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Victorian Government urged to support the arts not the gambling industry

Victorian Government urged to support the arts not the gambling industry

14 May 2020

The Victorian Government has been praised for sending a lifeline to creative industries in the state, but is being questioned about the highly disproportionate funding being given to horse racing -- an industry that’s sole existence is for the purposes of gambling.

Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, said it was disturbing to consider that the live music industry was receiving $6 million in support from the Victorian Government whereas the racing industry was slated for $44 million from the same pool of money.

“Consider the harm gambling does to families and communities versus the joy that live music brings to us all,” Rev Costello said. 

“Then consider the economics: Creative Victoria estimates that creative industries are worth $31 billion to the Victorian economy, versus the racing industry’s $3.2 billion annual value. That suggests the weighting of this funding is absolutely wrong and completely favouring the dangerous and exploitative gambling industry.

“If we want Victoria to #BuildBackBetter after the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to focus on industries and activities that have a positive impact on our communities and economy, not on industries that effectively drain money from local communities. We want our pubs and clubs to be thriving community hubs where people gather to have a meal and see live music, comedy and other performances.”

Rev Costello urged the Victorian Government to give deep consideration to the social, community, public health and economic impacts gambling has as we rebuild the state.

“There can be a real silver lining coming out of this awful crisis if we can reduce gambling harm in Victoria, and it will benefit all Victorians in the longer-term, even those who don’t gamble,” he said.

“As of today, $385 million has been saved from being lost on poker machines in Victoria since the 23 March closures. That’s money being used to pay rent, mortgages and bills, to buy a coffee or takeaway from a struggling local cafe, or jigsaw puzzles to keep the kids amused during lockdown.

“That money was previously effectively drained from the communities in which pokies venues operate.

“Then there are the public health costs associated with gambling harm. We’re in the middle of a mental health crisis in Victoria, so bad that Premier Daniel Andrews correctly instigated a Royal Commission. Submissions to that Royal Commission showed that gambling harm was associated with 22 percent of the costs to Victoria’s overburdened mental health system.

“Daniel Andrews has been so considered in his handling of the COVID-19 crisis, heeding the advice of public health professionals, and undoubtedly saving lives through the actions taken by his government. Why is it that when it comes to another public health issue in gambling harm, the Premier does not listen to what the experts have been clearly saying since the first Productivity Commission Report was published back in 1999? 

“Now more than ever, we need Daniel Andrews to consider how lives can be saved and improved through reducing gambling harm as we emerge from COVID-19, and for him not to squander this unique opportunity for a real reset.

“We have an amazing, unexpected chance to reform gambling in this state, to undo the devastating legacies of governments past, to remove machines of addiction from some of our most vulnerable communities and rebuild them with money flowing into local businesses instead of the pockets of a wealthy few. That’s the Victoria I want to live in, a happy, healthy and thriving Victoria, and that’s the one of which Daniel Andrews should want to be Premier.”

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