Victorians lost billions on pokies in 2019, but some hope on the horizon - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Victorians lost billions on pokies in 2019, but some hope on the horizon

Victorians lost billions on pokies in 2019, but some hope on the horizon

28 January 2020

Victorians lost $2.703 billion on poker machines in pubs and clubs in 2019, one of the highest amounts of losses since pokies were introduced to the state.

This figure is only slightly lower than the all-time record of $2.707 billion in losses recorded in 2008-09, according to the latest data published by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation. 

“This means on average, Victorians lost $7.4 million per day on the pokies in 2019,” said the Rev Tim Costello, the Alliance for Gambling Reform’ Chief Advocate. “When you consider the majority of Victorians don’t gamble on poker machines, that means there are some people losing tens of thousands of dollars a year to a predatory industry.

“These losses also don’t count what has gone down the metaphoric drain at Crown and into James Packer and co.’s pockets, as Crown aren’t obliged to report bi-annually.

“We cannot forget that poker machines lead to the loss of much more than money. In extreme cases, poker machines can cause the loss of lives through connections to some deaths by suicide. 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 they especially target people who may be feeling isolated or lonely. They are not in any way a healthy form of entertainment. We wouldn’t dream of saying that cigarettes are a healthy product, and pokies are no different.”

Rev Costello said he did take heart at seeing some areas recording drops in poker machine losses.

“The City of Darebin recorded a big decrease in losses, down $2.6million,” he said. “It’s no coincidence that Darebin is a leading council when it comes to gambling reform. This drop in Darebin is testament to their public health approach to reducing and minimising gambling harm.

“There are also some really great signs in Wyndham, which saw a $1.8m decrease in losses. Again, this can be attributed to the great reform work happening in this community via the council and other organisations, where they have been actively engaged in opposing poker machine applications. 

“It was also great to see a $1.3million decrease in losses in Brimbank, the home of the highest amount of gambling harm in Victoria. There has been much work on gambling harm prevention in Brimbank and the inner west of Melbourne, and it’s good to see some of that coming to fruition.

“However, Brimbank remains the local government area with the highest losses in the state. It’s impossible to ignore that the area is also one of the state’s most stressed communities for a multitude of reasons, many of which interconnect with gambling harm. A $1.3 million decrease is fantastic, but people in Brimbank are still losing $391,000 to poker machines every single day.

“Gambling harm must be treated as a public health issue, and appropriate harm minimisation and reduction measures must be introduced to put the health and safety of communities first.”

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