A massive $22.3 million has not been fed into gaming machines at pubs and clubs in Brimbank since the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shutdown of venues.
Alliance for Gambling Reform chief advocate Tim Costello said the savings, which equates to almost $400,000 a day, showed what a blight poker machines are on the municipality.
“It has been awful reading about the lives lost to COVID-19 around Australia, and my heart goes out to the people who have been affected,” Reverend Costello said.
“We also feel tremendously deeply for the people of Brimbank who have lost their jobs through this devastating crisis.
“But the shutdown of poker machines in Brimbank has undoubtedly improved lives for many people for the better, and perhaps even saved local lives.
“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.”
He said a rethink of how the industry starts back up after the crisis is imperative.
“COVID-19 is presenting us with a unique opportunity to rethink the dire situation Australia has gotten itself into with the prevalence of gambling,” he said.
“Australians lost $25 billion gambling last year, the highest rate of losses per head in the entire world.
“We can come out of this crisis with a real positive if we can significantly reduce gambling harm. 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 economy at a time when we need it most.
“We want to see pubs and clubs thriving once more with people gathering for a meal with loved ones, and watching music or comedy.”