Record pokie game losses in Victoria

Victoria’s pokies expenses reach record high

Victoria has posted a pokies loss record of $251 million in one month.

The Guardian reports that Victorians pumped $251 million into the state’s poker machines in December 2021, the highest monthly loss since measurements began.

It topped the previous record that was set in December 2008, when $250 million was lost to electronic pokie machines following the first wave of stimulus payments as part of the federal government’s response to the global financial crisis.

Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission data on gambling losses showed that residents of the state lost a further $224 million in January, despite the havoc wreaked in the hospitality industry by the record number of COVID-19 infections that month.

The most significant losses were suffered in areas classified as the most deprived by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This index of relative socio-economic deprivation calculates deprivation based on factors such as employment, income levels, and access to education and services.

Brimbank leads in losses on pokies

Losses were highest in Brimbank, Melbourne’s second most deprived LGA and the third most deprived LGA in the state.

In November, December, and January, $42 million were lost on pokies in Brimbank, with almost $15 million lost in December alone.

At the last census, the median household income in Brimbank was $487 per week for an individual and $1263 per week for a household, significantly less than the median incomes of $644 and $1419 respectively, in the state.

Brimbank has also been the hardest hit by the state’s Omicron wave, with the highest number and percentage of deaths by COVID-19 in the state since December.

Only five of the 79 local government areas in Victoria that host poker machines accounted for more than a quarter (25.81%) of losses in the state over the past three months.

These five LGAs – Brimbank, Hume, Greater Dandenong, Whittlesea, and Casey – are among the most deprived, with Greater Dandenong ranking second among all LGAs in the state.

Gambling reform advocates estimate that about 40 percent of electronic gaming machine losses come from high-risk gamblers. The revenue of poker license holders, i.e., gambling losses, is a rough estimate of the extent of harm.

On the other hand, lower incomes are a sign that harm reduction measures are working.

Changes to Victoria’s gambling regulator are on the way

In August 2021, amid the royal commission, the Victoria government announced that it would overhaul the Victorian Commission for Liquor and Gaming Regulation regulator. The new VGCCC would have greater oversight of harm reduction measures in both the casino and wider gambling industries.

“Yes, people are becoming aware of the damage being done by this predatory industry,” said Tim Costello, chief advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

“Yes, the Victorian government has taken the first steps to hold Crown accountable. However, what about the hundreds of millions that are lost every month in pubs and clubs? What steps are being taken to tackle this crisis?

Costello pointed to interventions such as pre-commitment systems whereby punters have to set a limit on their gambling expenditure in advance., shorter opening hours for pokies venues, and abolishing losses disguised as winnings.

Samantha Ratnam, leader of the Victorian Greens, stated the record losses were ” sadly really startling, but also not unexpected”.

“The longer we wait to protect people from the predatory gambling industry, the more families will be victimized and the more it will cost Victorians,” she said.

The Greens have called for harm reduction measures such as a maximum bet of $1, a maximum pre-load of $20, and jackpots of $500.