Record pokies spend

Tara Murray

Brimbank council is calling on the state government to reduce gaming venues’ opening hours following the biggest monthly spend on poker machines in the municipality since the introduction of machines in 1992.

Data released by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation shows $14.7 million was spent at Brimbank’s 15 gaming venues in December 2020 and $13.8 million in January 2021.

The amount of money fed into poker machines in January was 26 per cent higher than the same time last year – the largest increase of any Victorian municipality.

The top three venues in Victoria, ranked according to increased daily expenditure, are all located in Brimbank.

Brimbank mayor Ranka Rasic said that the area can’t maintain such a high pokies spend.

“Brimbank has been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with increasing unemployment, growing reliance on income support, and significant impacts on local business.

“Following my letter to the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation in December, the importance of reform has been reinforced with the continuation of distressing losses shown in the January figures.

“On behalf of council, I’m calling on the Victorian government to act immediately to modify the licensing conditions of all gaming venues in Victoria, to limit operation to a maximum of 16 hours per day.”

In September 2020, Brimbank joined 12 other councils in signing an open letter to Premier Daniel Andrews calling on the Victorian government to limit operating hours for gaming venues when they re-opened.

Through the council’s 19 Point Action Plan for COVID Response and Recovery, the council is also advocating for the government to invest in a dedicated Community Resilience and Fairness Response for Brimbank.

As part of this the council is seeking funding for improved gambling harm prevention measures.

Gambling reform advocate Anna Bardsley said it was imperative that the government learned from the pandemic.

“The amount lost in Brimbank says so much about how dangerous these machines are, and how much damage they do to our communities.,” she said.

“Almost $30 million has been lost in Brimbank alone in just two months. Imagine the harm that is coming with that, and the loss that represents to the local economy. Our communities deserve better.”

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