Concern rises over pokies

By Jessica Micallef

Hume council is concerned about an upward trend in gaming machine losses across the municipality, with more than $29 million lost in the first three months of 2018-19.

Monthly data from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation shows that $9.9 million was lost at Hume gaming venues in July, followed by $10 million in August and $9.4 million in September.

In 2016-17, more than $109 million was lost on poker machines in Hume – about $300,339 every day. The municipality is home to 833 gaming machines at 14 venues.

Hume mayor Carly Moore said the losses showed a trend of significantly higher losses month-on-month.

“While gambling is a legal activity, it can become problematic and can have harmful consequences for individuals, their families and the broader community,” Cr Moore said.

“The recent data on losses show a worrying trend of pokie machine losses across Hume city and it is also concerning to see the potential impact of the state government’s new legislation for 20 year licences that was passed last year.

“Hume has a regional cap of 851 pokies entitlements and council remains committed to raising our communities’ awareness of the potential harms associated with gambling.

“Council will continue to work with the state government to see that the harm for gambling is minimised, especially within our most vulnerable communities.”

Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello said the commission’s data showed Victoria was headed for record pokies losses in 2018.

“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.

Earlier this year, Hume council began a review of its Responsible Gaming Policy and asked residents to share their opinions and experiences with gambling.

The policy will assist the council to respond to the Victoria Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation on gaming applications throughout Hume.

A series of workshops and surveys were held in September and October to seek feedback from residents.

A draft policy will be developed and will be available for public consultation in 2019.

Data from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation also show that machine venues across the Macedon Ranges have collected more than $8 million in losses during October, up from $7.8 million in September.