By Laura Michell
Gamblers fed an extra $1.5 million into Hume-based poker machines in December last year, compared to the previous December.
Latest data from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation reveals $11.77 million was spent on electronic gaming machines at 14 Hume venues, up from $10.24 million in December 2019.
In Whittlesea, gamblers spent $11.05 million across the city’s 12 venues – a slight increase from December 2019 when $10.99 million was spent.
Gambling venues across Victoria were closed between March 16 and November 8 last year as a result of the state government’s coronavirus restrictions.
Between November 8 and November 30, $4.54 million was spent at poker machines in Hume, while $3.89 million was spent in Whittlesea.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform’s chief advocate, Reverend Tim Costello, said the latest gambling data was “hugely concerning” and highlighted a need for reduced poker machine operating hours.
“Communities … cannot sustain these kinds of losses,” he said. “These are stressed communities being exploited by the gambling industry, at a time when local families and businesses
are trying to recover from months of lockdown.
“In November, when there were restrictions on poker machine operating hours and other limits, we saw a reduction in daily losses. That was a real time, real life experiment showing that gambling harm is reduced when opening hours are shortened.
“It’s simply absurd that Victoria has the worst pokies opening hours in Australia at 20 hours a day.”
In September 2020, 13 councils, including Whittlesea, wrote an open letter to Premier Daniel Andrews requesting poker machines be closed between midnight and 10am when restrictions eased.
“This is a sensible and relatively easy reform that will have a huge impact on gambling harm,” Reverend Costello said.