LeadWest urges tougher pokies regulations

Regulating the design of electronic gaming machines will significantly reduce gambling problems in Melbourne’s west, according to the LeadWest agency.

The advocacy organisation last month signed on to an Alliance for Gambling Reform, calling on the federal government to “tackle one of Australia’s biggest causes of inequality and hardship”.

Each month Melton punters lose millions of dollars on electronic gaming machines, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation reports.

In the first four months of this financial year, Melton punters poured $22 million into gaming machines.

And, according to the regulatory body, gaming machines at WestWater in Caroline Springs reaped almost $12 million in the past financial year, followed closely by Mac’s Hotel on High Street ($11 million).

LeadWest chief executive Craig Rowley said the group was committed to lobbying for gambling and gaming machine reform in Melbourne’s west, where there is a disproportionately higher number of losses.

“The odds of winning are stacked against the players,” Mr Rowley said. “We’re signalling strongly that we want to see government act and regulate the designs of the machines.”

‘Into your brain’

Electronic gaming machines are “designed to get under your skin and into your brain”, the Alliance for Gambling Reform states. Mr Rowley said thousands of families in Melbourne’s west were being torn apart and millions were being stripped from the local economy.

“Each dollar that’s put into gaming machines is a dollar taken away from a local business that employs people from Melbourne’s west,” Mr Rowley said.

“The lost dollars translate to no food on the table, no textbooks for school children and products and goods in people’s homes that are not being bought from local business.”

He said that while fewer machines would help bring the numbers down, regulating gaming machine designs to be less addictive was a solution.

The machines were “loaded against the user”, Mr Rowley said.

“Unless there are changes to the nature of the way these machines are designed, gambling will continue as an issue into the future.”

Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Moonee Valley and Maribyrnong councils in Melbourne’s west have all joined the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

A Melton council spokeswoman said: “At this stage, Melton council has not signed on as we are currently developing a Gaming Local Planning Policy.”