By Ewen McRae
Nearly $30 million has been saved from pokie machines in Melton since the pandemic began, according to new data.
The Alliance for Gaming Reform recently announced that Victorians had saved more than $1 billion from electronic gaming machines since March, with $28 million staying in the pockets of Melton residents.
Alliance chief advocate Rev Tim Costello said while the pandemic had been a terrible time for many communities, one positive had been the closure of electronic gaming machine venues.
“It has been awful reading about the lives lost to COVID-19 around Australia, and especially the devastating spikes in Victoria, and my heart goes out to the people affected,” Rev Costello said.
“We also feel tremendously deeply for the people who have lost their jobs through this dire crisis.
“But we have experienced a silver lining in all this — the shutdown of poker machines has undoubtedly improved lives for many local people in Melton for the better, and perhaps even saved lives.”
The latest poker machine losses data for the 2019-20 financial year showed that patrons lost $10,962,852 at the West Waters Hotel, the highest losses in Melton. Mac’s Hotel in Melton recorded the second highest losses of $9,100,714.
Rev Costello said it stood to reason that at least some of the $28 million in savings from poker machine losses in Melton would have been spent locally, boosting the economy at a time when it is needed most.
“Poker machines are an effective drain on our 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.
“Poker machines are not innocuous, they do the majority of gambling harm in our community as they are seemingly inescapable, and the machines themselves are designed to addict people.
“COVID-19 is presenting us with a unique opportunity to rethink the appalling situation Australia has gotten itself into with the prevalence of gambling.”