Council calls for tighter pokies regulation

Brimbank City Council in Victoria is calling on the State government to do more to stop problem gambling, which is a widespread public health concern in the municipality. 

Brimbank has the highest electronic gaming machines losses of any Local Government Area in Victoria, which is deeply concerning, said Brimbank Mayor John Hedditch.

“In 2015-2016, $143,045,743 was lost on electronic gaming machines in Brimbank – that’s $905 for every adult in Brimbank,” Mayor Hedditch said.

“This community simply can’t tolerate the devastating financial and social impacts of these huge losses.

“In 2015-2016 around 44 per cent or more than $63 million of these huge losses went straight to the Victorian Government Treasury. Year after year Council, police and other local social support services are left to mop up the mess.”

The Council is calling on the State Government to impose stronger regulation.

In a submission to the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing’s (OLGR) Gaming Machine Harm Minimisation Measures Consultation, Council says current cash withdrawal limits of $200 per transaction should be tightened.

Currently, gaming venue patrons can go back multiple times during the day and keep withdrawing an additional $200.

Council recommended introducing a daily transaction limit on EFTPOS withdrawals at gaming venues.

“Evidence shows that problem gamblers are more likely to have multiple EFTPOS withdrawals per gambling session, so a daily withdrawal limit would support vulnerable people to better limit the amount of money they spend,” Cr Hedditch said.

Council’s submission also called for Responsible Gambling Codes of Conduct to be enforceable by law – with regulation similar to the model covering venues with liquor licenses under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998.

Under this model, venues that breached the code could face fines and/or license cancelation or suspensions.

“Based on the Victorian Auditor General’s recent report on pokies, Council wants to see a much stronger regime of inspection and auditing of pokies venues by the relevant Victorian government agency to ensure pokies venue operators fully comply with the regulations – now and into the future,” Mayor Hedditch said.

“While Council reluctantly acknowledges that Electronic Gaming Machines are a legal form of entertainment in Victoria, Council is very concerned about the devastating harm problem gambling continues to cause to our community.

“These huge losses must be turned around and turned around quickly as the devastating impacts on families, children and individuals have been allowed to go on far too long while the Victorian Treasury fattens its purse off the back of some of the most vulnerable in our community.”