Four Whittlesea venues are among the top 10 for poker machine losses in the last financial year, according to figures released by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.
Epping Plaza Hotel recorded the highest losses in the state in 2019-20, with $15.29 million lost on its pokie machines.
Plough Hotel in Mill Park came in at number two, with $15.04 million lost.
Excelsior Hotel ($13.12 million lost ) and Bundoora Taverner ($12.87 million lost) were also in the top 10.
Overall, Whittlesea recorded the sixth-highest losses in the state, with $83.7 million lost on pokies in the municipality despite gaming venues being closed between April and June.
Whittlesea council panel of administrators chair, Lydia Wilson, said while there have been big savings while pokie machines venues were closed due to COVID-19, it was essential measures are in place to reduce the harmful effects of gambling.
Since gaming machines were shut down, $45 million has been saved that would normally go into machines in Whittlesea, according to the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation data.
“It is very alarming and a huge concern that the top two venues for gambling losses, which amounts to more than $30 million from 200 poker machines across these venues, are in the City of Whittlesea,” Ms Wilson said.
“This only reinforces council’s commitment to ongoing advocacy for change to the poker machine industry.
“Some gaming venues are open until the small hours of the morning. Unemployment and stress caused by impacts of COVID-19 are at a record high, putting added pressure on vulnerable people succumbing to gambling harm.
“We are also advocating for the state government to consider a poker machine buyback scheme, which is underway in the Australian Capital Territory.
“A similar program in Victoria would allow poker machine operators to invest a financial package into supporting and retaining staff and transforming venues into family-friendly locations.”
Ms Wilson said council, along with other Victorian councils, were calling on the state government to close gaming venues at midnight.
Losses on pokie machines in Hume were slightly higher, with $85.9 million lost on pokies in the nine months.
Gladstone Park Hotel recorded the highest losses in Hume, with $14.41 million lost on the venue’s machines.
The venue recorded the third-highest losses in the state.