Green light for more pokies

More than 150 additional poker machines could be allowed in Melton if proposed state government gambling reforms are approved by Parliament.

The government recently announced a raft of reforms to its Gaming Machine Arrangements Bill such as limiting cash withdrawals at venues to $500 and banning the practice of cashing cheques at gaming venues.

The reforms also allow for a percentage increase in the number of machines in the suburbs not covered by a regional cap on poker machines. Municipal limits were introduced in 2009 and cover nearly all local government areas in Victoria, including Melton, at a ratio of 10 electronic gaming machines per 1000 adults.

If population rises, the limit may increase.

Melton council community services general manager Maurie Heaney said the number of poker machines currently in Melton is 503.

Under the changes, up to 659 machines could be permitted.

Mr Heaney said the council was due to review and update its responsible gambling policy, which was adopted in 2014, before April next year.

“Melton council assesses each application and proposal for additional gaming machines or new venues on its merits, on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

In 2016-17, gamblers lost more than
$60 million at Melton’s poker machines across seven gaming venues in the area.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform is calling for the government to reduce the number of poker machines statewide and delay the reforms to allow for more community consultation.

Campaigner Kelvin Thomson said the group strongly opposed more machines in Melton.

He said that population growth did not excuse the government’s decision.

“This is a recipe for great damage. Pokies take a terrible toll on families and the community,” Mr Thomson said.

“The increase is putting these areas at greater risk of poker machine-related harm.”

Gaming and Liquor Regulation Minister Marlene Kairouz said the reforms were about “protecting people and helping those who choose to gamble stick to their limits.”

“We are capping pokies numbers across the state, limiting daily cash withdrawals in venues and restricting betting advertising in our public spaces,” Ms Kairouz said.