By Laura Michell
Close to $35 million has been saved from being fed into gaming machines across Whittlesea and Hume since the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of pubs and clubs.
Gaming venues have been closed since March 23 in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19.
According to the Alliance for Gambling Reform, $17.4 million would have been spent at Hume poker machines in the two months since the closure, while $17.3 million would have been spent in Whittlesea.
Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, Tim Costello, said this demonstrated the blight poker machines are on the economies and communities of Hume and Whittlesea.
“The shutdown of poker machines … has undoubtedly improved lives for many people for the better, and perhaps even saved local lives,” Reverend Costello said.
“We’re hearing some great stories of how people are no longer worrying about how to pay their bills because they now have money in their bank accounts instead of them being bled by poker machines.
“This is the reality of the devastation poker machines wreak. They are machines of addiction designed specifically to leech money from people, and also our economy.”
Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation data shows that between July, 2019 and March this year, more than $85 million was lost at poker machines in both Whittlesea and Hume.
In 2018-19, $111.7 million was lost at Hume’s poker machine venues, while $91.066 million was lost at Whittlesea venues.
Reverend Costello said it stood to reason that at least some of the money saved from pokies would have been spent locally, helping to boost the economy.
“Poker machines are an effective drain on the economy. They prevent people from having the money to not only pay their bills but to also do the little things in their community like buy a coffee and cake or a book from a local shop,” he said.
“COVID-19 is presenting us with a unique opportunity to rethink the dire situation Australia has gotten itself into with the prevalence of gambling.”