Ballarat on track to again lose over $50 million on pokies

LOCAL punters are again on track to lose more than $50 million in a year after almost $28 million was tipped into Ballarat pokies during the second half of 2015.

Big losses: Ballarat is again on track to lose more than $50 million on poker machines in a financial year, with over $27 million being spent on machines in the latter half of 2015.  Picture: Arsineh Houspian.

Big losses: Ballarat is again on track to lose more than $50 million on poker machines in a financial year, with over $27 million being spent on machines in the latter half of 2015. Picture: Arsineh Houspian.

Taking in $27,831,787 from July 1 until December 31 of 2015, gamblers in the City of Ballarat lost the second most on poker machines of all regional shires, second to Geelong.  

Over the six months, Ballarat gamblers spent almost $3 million more than their counterparts in Bendigo.

Pokies researcher at Federation University John Mcdonald said the gaming industry’s stronghold on many pubs and clubs meant reducing the amount lost to poker machines was increasingly difficult.

“Once poker machines have got a hold they’re a really powerful influence, reaping huge amounts of money.”

The 663 poker machines in 15 venues across Ballarat have taken in over $50 million every year since the 2004/5 financial year, with no signs of slowing.  Across the state over $1.3 billion was tipped into poker machines during the latter half of 2015.

The data released by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation comes two months after the state government introduced the $179 million Your Play system, which allows poker machine users to voluntarily monitor and limit their spending.

Introduced at the beginning of December, the system was the first of its kind to be introduced in Australia. 

Users register a card and can set a maximum on the time or money they spend on the machines.  

Mr Mcdonald said there was no evidence to show voluntary limit setting assisted problem gamblers.

“If someone wants to gamble there's ways around it,” he said.  “You’re putting the responsibility back on the gambler instead of looking at the broader social problems.”

Like all venues across the state, all 50 of the Sepastopol Bowling Club’s poker machines were fitted with the new technology at the expense of the venue operator.

Sebastopol Blowing Club general manager Rodney Beckwith the system provided an effective means for punters to keep track of their expenses.

“Regardless of what the take-up number is, it’s about having that system there for them.”

Mr Beckwith said the technology was the first of its kind to be implemented anywhere in the world, and that there was only so much government and venues could be held accountable for.

“It’s a collective situation where the government and the venue can get involved, but the person’s got to get involved as well.”’

Mr Beckwith said while poker machines were an easy target for opponents of gambling, a bigger issue around online gambling was being overlooked.