Brimbank council has backed calls by the Alliance for Gambling Reform for urgent state reforms to prevent gambling harm when poker machines are switched back on.
Last month, council announced its 19-Point Action Plan for COVID-19 Response and Recovery, which set out pathways for council to partner with other levels of government in response to the health, wellbeing and economic impacts of the pandemic.
The plan seeks investment towards a dedicated Community Resilience and Fairness Response Package, which includes responding to the risk of gambling harm when gaming rooms reopen.
Brimbank mayor Georgina Papafotiou said the COVID-19 shutdown of poker machines across the municipality has provided financial reprieve for many households.
She said that since late March, an estimated $63.3 million has been saved from going into poker machines in Brimbank.
“We know that gambling harm has an impact on mental health, family violence, homelessness and other social and health issues that we care deeply about in Brimbank,” Cr Papafotiou said.
“Local businesses are doing it particularly tough right now.
“We want and need to keep money in our local communities. Every dollar lost to poker machines is money extracted from our local economy.
“With unemployment at record highs and the general stress around COVID-19, many more people are and will be vulnerable to gambling harm.”
Brimbank council also signed a joint letter, with 10 other councils, to the Premier requesting that gaming venues close between midnight and 10am.
“We must protect our communities from the increased likelihood of gambling harm, and support local communities as they recover from COVID-19.,” Cr Papfotiou said.
“Closing venues at midnight is a simple, yet effective, measure to reduce gambling harm.
“We urge the Victorian government to enact this reform for the health and economic benefit of all our communities.”
Alliance for Gambling Reform chief advocate Tim Costello said that local councils understand the devastation poker machines can cause.
“It’s unfair that local councils have so little say about a business operating in their community that can do so much damage to their residents,” Reverend Costello said.
“Public health and addiction experts have been saying this is dangerous for years and it is time changes happened.”