Geelong punters lose millions as pokies reopen

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Pokies losses pile up post lockdown

The latest gambling figures from the Victorian regulator reveals Geelong residents lost $4.23 million in a matter of days after pubs and clubs were reopened in late 2020.

The Geelong Advertiser reports that when pokies were reopened to the public from November 9, Geelong’s 1346 machines swallowed $4.23 million by the end of the month.

The region, which includes one Borough of Queenscliffe venue, recorded the fifth largest loss of Victoria’s 57 municipalities with electronic gaming machines.

But the losses are well behind the $10.23 million lost in November 2019 with venues still facing COVID-19 restrictions.

The November reopening was the first time pokies venues were allowed to operate their gaming rooms since they were closed on March 16 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The closure stopped the region’s record breaking run of pokies losses in its tracks, after topping $120 million in losses in 2018/19 and heading towards beating that total in 2019/20 prior to the impacts of COVID-19.

The November pokies reopening came as the Alliance for Gambling Reform released estimates that the seven-month closure saved Geelong gamblers from losing $82 million.

Alliance for Gambling Reform chief executive Tim Costello voiced concerns the reopening of gaming rooms across the state would lead to a surge in losses.

“Poker machines being switched off was a real silver lining of COVID for all Victorians, not just gamblers,” Mr Costello said in November.

“An estimated $1.8 billion was not lost on poker machines during Victoria’s lockdown, which would have had a tremendous benefit on our local economies at a time when it was needed most.”

The return of pokies to Queensland, Tasmania and New South Wales following similar closures resulted in a rise in losses in those areas, Mr Costello warned.

The Victorian Greens last month called on the state government to waive licensing fees for clubs and venues that wanted to phase out poker machines.

Greens call for Crown Melbourne casino licence to be stripped pending investigation

The Victorian government’s decision to fast-track an investigation into Crown Melbourne’s licence has been welcomed by the Victorian Greens, who are calling for the casino’s licence to be suspended until the investigation has concluded.

Mirage News reported in December that in light of the damning evidence that has come out of the NSW inquiry into Crown, including bags of cash under desks, tampering with poker machines and controls and money laundering.

The Greens also want to see an independent investigation into the VCGLR to investigate how it allowed Crown to get away with the outrageous and potentially unlawful conduct uncovered by the inquiry.

Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam, said that while Crown was a high roller in the gambling industry, that didn’t mean it shouldn’t play by the same rules as everyone else.

She added that the independent investigation into Crown’s licence was long overdue and that sadly it had taken a NSW inquiry to spur our state government to act.

The government announcement follows repeated questioning of the Premier by the Greens in Parliament over nearly two years, on why Crown continues to hold its licence and the efficacy of the regulation.

“The Greens have repeatedly called on the state government to curb Crown’s unacceptable behaviour, but sadly it’s taken a NSW inquiry to spur them to act,” Ms Ratnam said.

“Given the damning evidence, Crown shouldn’t be allowed to retain its Victorian licence while this investigation takes place.”

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