Whittlesea and Hume poker machines draw big returns 

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Australian gaming venue survey shows eagerness to spend on poker machines

New data from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation has revealed that more than $72 million was spent on poker machines in the Whittlesea and Hume areas last financial year.

Northern Star Weekly reports that the data revealed Epping Plaza was the venue with the third highest poker machine expenditure in the state, with $11.66 million spent there between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

It was previously reported as the number one venue in the state, with $15.29 million spent there in 2019-20.

The Kealba Hotel in Whittlesea was revealed as the number one venue for expenditure in 2020-21, with $14.55 million spent.

Roxburgh Park Hotel and the Plough Hotel in Mill Park had a reported expenditure of $11.6 million each, making them two of the top five venues statewide.

Gladstone Park Hotel ($11.25 million), Excelsior Hotel in Thomastown ($11.01 million) and Bundoora Taverner ($10.44 million) were also included in the top venues for poker machine expenditure.

Whittlesea council chair administrator Lydia Wilson said the council remained concerned about poker machines and their negative impact on community members.

“Council continues to advocate…in relation to specific initiatives such as a reduction in operating hours of gaming venues and for improvements in the support available to people who are experiencing harm from gambling,” Ms Wilson said.

“Council also maintains its policy to object to any additional gaming machines in our municipality, whilst working with licensed operators and others to reduce the harm existing machines may cause.”

The data comes as the state government announced an overhaul of Victoria’s gambling regulations by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission.

The government said the VGCCC structure and governance was guided by the independent review of casino regulation.

Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Minister Melissa Horne said the regulator would deliver strengthened oversight.

“The VGCCC will provide robust regulation of the Melbourne casino and wider gambling activity in the state,” Ms Horne said.

Western suburbs pokies cash in despite long closures

Poker machines in Wyndham Council netted $61.62 million in the 2020-21 financial year, according to figures from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.

During the 2019-20 financial year, poker machine players in the area lost more than $75.75 million.

The VCGLR data did not include earnings from April to October 2020, when poker machine venues were shut due to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The municipality which lost the most money to electronic gaming machines was Brimbank, where the machines made more than $92.07 million in the 12 months to June 2021.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform has called for a reduction in poker machine venue operating hours after the pandemic lockdown demonstrated how people spend fewer hours on the machines when they are unable to attend venues.

Reverend Tim Costello said it was “past time” that gambling harm was addressed as a serious public health issue.

“We shouted from the rooftops that losses would increase after lockdowns eased,” he said.

“It’s simply absurd that Victoria has the worst pokies operating hours in Australia at a ridiculous 20 hours a day.

“We cannot ignore the harm they are doing any longer, our communities cannot afford it.”

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