Vic pokie losses up to $240m post-lockdown

·2-min read

Gambling reform advocates have renewed calls for reduced venue operating hours after Victorian poker machine losses soared past $8 million a day last month.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation has released new figures that showed a 11.7 per cent rise in pokie losses in April, compared to the same month in 2019.

Over the month, pokie losses across the state totalled $240 million and increased across all but four municipalities.

Melton (24 per cent), Hume (21 per cent), Brimbank (20 per cent) and Greater Dandenong (18 per cent) recorded the sharpest rises.

Tim Costello, chief advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said losses were reaching "unsustainable levels" and would cause significant harm to people and families.

"These are all stressed communities that cannot afford these kinds of losses," he said in a statement on Monday.

Reverend Costello said the state government had been warned about a likely spike after gambling venues were closed for most of last year.

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

"We knew it would happen because the evidence shows gambling harm increases in a crisis, whether it's a pandemic, an economic downturn or a natural disaster."

Seizing on the new statistics, the group wants the Victorian government to urgently reduce operating hours at gambling venues once they reopen following the fourth lockdown.

Reverend Costello said the move worked in November as the state emerged from the second lockdown, briefly reducing losses before venue hours returned to up to 20 hours a day.

"We are calling for poker machines to be closed between midnight and 10am daily around Victoria," he said.

"Surely 14 hours a day is enough for pokies to operate? We cannot ignore the harm they are doing any longer, our communities cannot afford it."