The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation recently released figures for pokie losses across the state from July 2018 to June 2019. While these statistics only covered land-based poker machines, the results were still shocking.

During the 2018 to 2019 financial year, Victorians lost a total of $2.698 billion on pokies. This number represents an increase of $3.5 million over last year’s data. In fact, it falls just short of the all-time mark of $2.707 billion set in 2008-2009.

Brimbank – Leading the Pack

Brimbank has the dubious honour of leading all Victorian cities in poker machine losses over the last year. According to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, players lost $142.9 million at Brimbank’s 15 gaming locations. In 2017-18, the losses were $139.5, which is an increase of $3.4 million.

According to Brimbank mayor Lucinda Congreve, the city has led the state in losses for several years.

“To hear that people from Brimbank are losing $391,518 a day on pokies is horrifying,” she said. “Our city cannot sustain these losses.”

For their part, the city council is making an effort to fight back. A recent policy prohibits any new pokies on council-owned land. They are also seeking to reduce the total number of machines. Currently, state policy allows for 953 pokies to be located within the municipality.

Unfortunately, the Brimbank city council has little say in the matter. The majority of the laws related to pokies are set on the state and federal level. If politicians do decide to take action, they’ll need to be careful to avoid making mistakes like those of NSW.

Rising Losses in Melton

Melton continued a six-year streak of losses, racking up a record amount of nearly $68 million in losses. That’s up from $66 million the previous year and $24 million in 2002-03. The city has 515 poker machines spread across seven locations.

The city council is said to be working hard to reduce the ill effects of pokie losses. However, it should be noted that in December they extended the Essendon Football Club’s lease of the Melton Country Club. This facility is home to 89 pokies.

Losses Down in Frankston

Frankston pokie players lost $62 million from July 2018 to June 2019. This placed them within the top 20 for losses, although it represents a decline from last year’s $64.62 million.

While the drop might sound positive, Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello had a sobering reminder.

“On average, Victorian adults lost $530 on the pokies in the past financial year.”

He added, “We must not forget that poker machines lead to the loss of much more than money. In extreme cases, poker machines cause the loss of lives via suicide. Then there is the loss of homes, families, relationships, jobs, cars and much more due to gambling harm.”

Aerial photo of Whittlesea, Australia.

Whittlesea Loses Big

The 10 gambling venues in Whittlesea recorded losses of $110.9 million during the previous financial year. This works out to $655 for every adult, and an overall average of $303,715 per day.

Whittlesea ranks sixth among the highest losses throughout Victoria. In fact, four of the top 10 venues for pokie losses are located in the city.

Mayor Lawrie Cox said, “It’s critical that pokie addiction is recognised as a public health issue and that urgent reforms are introduced to address this. We know poker machines cause harm; in fact they are designed to cause addiction.”

In Conclusion

Things appear to be getting progressively worse in Australia when it comes to gambling losses. However, there are also several reasons to remain optimistic. For example, companies such as Woolworths have withdrawn from the gambling business.  Also, the Macquarie Group is no longer allowing its credit cards to be used for gambling transactions.

I expect the subject of poker machines to remain a controversial topic for years to come. However, with hints of greater federal regulation on the horizon, it’s possible that Australia may slowly fall in line with most civilized nations.