When the chips are down


THERE’S no escaping the starkest of facts. In Greater Dandenong – one of Melbourne’s most disadvantaged municipalities – each adult loses on average nearly $1000 a year on poker machines.
In total, $110 million gets sucked into the pokies’ slots – more than the council rakes in with rates notices.
The numbers of machines are under the municipal 970 cap but higher than many other council areas. University research suggested Melbourne’s poorest suburbs were being targeted by pokies operators.
Last year the council – despite its concerns about problem gambling – declined to oppose Albion Hotel and Noble Park RSL grabbing more machines this year.
The council stated it folded its hand because it was unlikely to win the contest at the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.
This state election, Greater Dandenong joined a throng of councils in an Enough Pokies campaign pleading for more say in poker machine applications.
They also called for the banning of EFTPOS in pokies venues and more funding for gambler help services.
The Greens supported them on this measure as well as limiting maximum bets to $1 – which would slow a problem gambler’s losses from $700 an hour to $120.
However neither Labor nor Liberal made any commitments to tighten controls. Greens MP Colleen Hartland summed it up thus: “Governments make too much money out of pokies. Labor and Liberal really want that revenue.”
That revenue is $1 billion and rising – according to last year’s State Budget papers.
Attorney General and Keysborough MP Martin Pakula promised to consult with Enough Pokies after the campaign. This year will see which side of the argument has more sway.