NEW figures show Ballarat pours more than $6000 an hour into pokies, sparking renewed calls to protect problem gamblers by capping poker machine numbers and spending limits in the city.
Victorian Commission for Gambling data shows Ballarat put $42,595,346 into pokies this financial year up to March and $4,720,645.41 in March alone.
This equates to about $6300 an hour averaged out over a month.
Ballarat City Council’s responsible gambling committee chair Des Hudson said the figures were significant and highlighted the need to protect problem gamblers in the community who could not afford to lose their hard-earned dollars into poker machines.
Cr Hudson said while annual figures were often quoted for poker machine use, hourly consumption was much easier for people to identify with.
“We have to ensure people gambling at that level are not becoming problem gamblers,” he said.
“We need to make sure we advocate for those vulnerable sectors of the community.”
It comes after the City of Ballarat last year applied to the state gaming minister to discuss lowering the state’s cap on electronic gaming machines for Ballarat.
Cr Hudson said Ballarat’s cap of 663 was 204 machines above the state average per head of population.
“The minister didn’t give us any certainty he would be willing to revisit that gaming cap,” Cr Hudson said.
“It’s a very difficult space for council to act.”
Relationships Victoria Ballarat centre manager Sue Yorston said the figures showed why spend limits were needed and ATMs should be removed from areas where poker machines were located.
She said while Ballarat was above the state average for the number of machines used, a lower rate of people were identified as a having a problem.
Ms Yorston said by the time many people sought help, they were in crisis.
“We believe for the small number of people that identify they have a problem with gambling, there are many more,” she said.
“A far as the harm people experience, it can be quite devastating.
“For people who have lost their job and people who come before the courts for gambling related behaviour, the effect of it can be devastating.”