A local council in Victoria is calling on the State Government to take urgent action following what it says is a surge in losses from electronic gaming machines which is affecting members of the community.
The Brimbank City Council – the second largest municipality in greater Melbourne and home to seven of the top 20 gaming venues in Victoria – is concerned that pokie losses among residents has surged significantly in recent months.
“Daily losses in our municipality reached a staggering $474,914 during December 2020, representing a 23 percent increase on the same time the previous year,” the council said in a statement.
Residents lost $2,9-million in January
“The recently announced January 2021 statistics show an increase in losses of 26 percent, or $2.9-million, compared to the same time last year. These are by far the largest increases of any Victorian municipality.”
Brimbank mayor, Ranka Rasic, has now written to the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation requesting that gaming venue operating hours be reduced to prevent further major losses.
Following health advice, gaming venues in the state initially re-opened on 9 November 2020 with strict conditions, including maximum 16-hour daily operating hours, 10-person gaming room limits and 90-minute ‘dwell time’ restrictions.
Harm-reduction measures are needed
These measures contributed to a 42 percent reduction in daily losses in November 2020 across Victoria, including an encouraging 35 percent reduction in Brimbank.
“However, these restrictions were relaxed on 23 November, paving the way for the most devastating consecutive monthly EGM losses ever recorded in Victoria,” the council said.
“The sharp increase in losses in both December and January demonstrates the importance of evidence-based harm-reduction measures.”
Pandemic has impacted jobs in the area
According to Rasic, Brimbank has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with increasing unemployment, growing reliance on income support and significant impacts on local business.
“We simply cannot maintain these damaging losses, particularly within our more vulnerable groups and communities,” Rasic said.
“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.”