Pokies ‘health crisis’

By Tate Papworth

Brimbank continues to top the state for pokies losses.

Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation data shows that pokies venues in Brimbank took more than $12.8 million from residents last month.

Brimbank’s total losses in 2017-18 were $139.51 million, making it the Victorian municipality with the greatest pokies losses – a ranking it has held for a decade.

Brimbank councillor Virginia Tachos said the figures were troubling and the damage they represented to the community needed to stop.

“It is disturbing that the new financial year has opened with a nine per cent increase in July to a record $12.81 million in losses in just one month,” Cr Tachos said.

“If this keeps up Brimbank’s losses could top $150 million in 2018-19.”

Cr Tachos called for legislation to be introduced to ease the pain.

“Our communities are suffering from gambling harm and it’s only getting worse,” she said.

“This is a public health crisis and it needs to end.

“We call on the state government and opposition parties to commit to $1 maximum bets, reduce venue opening hours and lower the cap on the number of pokies machines in our community.”

Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman and director Tim Costello said the problem was deepening across the state and government intervention was required.

“Increased losses mean rising harm, family violence, suicide, financial hardship and crime, which is particularly disturbing when you consider it is often our most vulnerable communities who are being exploited by poker machines,” he said.

“Successive Victorian governments have become reliant on the easy money of gambling taxes, but this has got to stop.

“With the state election just three months away, we need the major parties to come up with new policies which will reduce pokies losses.

“We are saying the next Victorian Parliament must show some spine and heart and address this issue to prevent the needless suicides, family violence, bankruptcy and fraud which flows when $2.7 billion a year is ripped from the community through addictive poker machines in suburban pubs and clubs.”