Hume councillors have voiced their concerns about the ongoing harm electronic gaming machines are causing to local residents.
The council’s annual report of gaming and other gambling matters was tabled at last week’s council meeting.
While losses decreased in the municipality for the past financial year due to COVID-19, the council said the figures showed a worrying trend.
In the 2017-18 financial year Hume residents lost $109.62 million on gaming machines, the seventh highest in the state.
That increased to $111.70 million, an average of $306,016 per day, in the 2018-19 financial year. There were 20 new EGMs installed in Hume during that year.
In the past financial year, Hume residents lost $85.94 million with gaming venues trading for only 267 days due to COVID-19 lockdown. The losses are the fifth highest in the state.
The report stated that had venues not been closed, in all probability Hume would have experienced an annual gross loss of $117 million.
Gladstone Park Hotel generated the greatest amount of losses with a total of $14.41 million, ranking it the third highest among all venues across Victoria for 2019-20.
Councillor Naim Kurt said the report painted a concerning picture.
“The report highlights the staggering amount of money our community has lost to electronic gambling machines over the last two years,” he said.
“Concerningly, the research is showing us the harm from gaming machines is leading to significant levels of death, bankruptcy, relationship conflict, stress, depression and absenteeism from both school and work across Hume.
“This report reinforces the critical role council’s gambling harm minimisation policy [is] to build community and industry awareness about the harm of gambling and to link people in with services.”
Hume council is actively working with a Local Government Working Group on Gambling (LGWGOG) exploring ways to minimise the harm of gambling in the community.
The council is also working with neighbouring Mitchell and Whittlesea councils on a joint project on behalf of the Northern Metropolitan Partnership, investigating how the Victorian planning system, including relevant policies, Acts and organisations, can support new communities to build resilience in the first years of their development.
This includes ensuring that key facilities, services and infrastructure are provided before the introduction of any facilities that could negatively impact, or pose harm, to vulnerable communities, specifically those facilities that accommodate EGMs.
Cr Kurt said he had heard of council candidates in other councils campaigning for different rates for hotels and clubs to account for losses. He said there was some merit in further exploring the idea.