By Ewen McRae
More than $10 million has been saved from poker machines in Melton since the state-wide COVID-19 lockdown came into effect.
The Alliance for Gaming Reform said that $10.5 million, or roughly $185,000 a day, had been saved in Melton since the closure of gaming venues on March 23.
Alliance chief advocate Tim Costello said while the widespread impact of the pandemic had been terrible, one positive had been more money in the pockets of regular poker machine users.
“We feel tremendously deeply for the people of Melton who have lost their jobs through this devastating crisis,” Reverend Costello said.
“But the shutdown of poker machines in Melton has undoubtedly improved lives for many people for the better, and perhaps even saved local lives.
“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 in Melton. They are machines of addiction designed specifically to leech money from people, and also our economy.”
Reverend Costello said it stood to reason that at least some of those savings were being spent locally, and said the current situation presented a unique opportunity to create long-lasting changes.
“Poker machines are an effective drain on the Melton economy,” he said.
“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.
“COVID-19 is presenting us with a unique opportunity to rethink the dire situation Australia has gotten itself into with the prevalence of gambling.
“We can come out of this crisis with a real positive if we can significantly reduce gambling harm. That will not only save families and individuals from inordinate pain, it will provide billions of dollars to be spent in our economy at a time when we need it most.”