More than $55.7 million has been gambled away through Ballarat’s poker machines during the 2017/2018 year leaving many families almost destitute, a Salvation Army spokesman has said.
“We have families that have lost everything to pokies ... there are children in our city going hungry because of these machines,” Salvation Army Captain Craig Wood said.
“Something has to lessen the impact of these machines on innocent people.”
Captain Wood said they see first hand the destructive effects of poker machines and has called for action.
The statistics, released by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation reveal that poker machine players lost more than $55.7 million at the Ballarat’s 15 venues during the last 12 months; an increase of almost $1.2 million on the 2016/17 year.
It is unethical for the government to reap over $1.1 billion in tax from gambling at the expense of community wellbeing.BHS researcher - Dr Deb Greenslade
A spokesperson for the Ballarat Interagency Taskforce on Gambling – which includes Ballarat Community Health, The Salvation Army, YMCA, Federation University, Ballarat Council and the Central Highlands Primary Care Partnership – said it was the city’s worst poker machine losses in six years.
The Taskforce has demanded the State’s two major political parties take action by adopting recommendations made by the Productivity Commission in 2010, aimed at reversing the increasing losses.
It is seeking a bipartisan commitment to the Commission’s recommendation to reduce maximum bets from $5 to $1 and trading hour restrictions at those hotels with poker machines.
The Taskforce is also pushing for the maximum ATM cash withdrawal permitted in pokies venues to be cut from $500 to $200 a day and a reduction in the number of poker machines across the state.
Central Highlands Primary Care Partnership executive officer Katherine Gillespie said the effects of poker machine gambling are hindering efforts to make the city a healthy, active and vibrant community.
“How can our community be healthy and vibrant with these appalling losses to poker machines?” Ms Gillespie said.
“These financial losses are affecting the lives of individuals and families; the government must recognise the damage poker machines are doing and address this dreadful situation.”
Ballarat Community Health’s research coordinator, Dr Deb Greenslade said there had been almost $2.7 billion lost across Victoria.
“It is unethical for the government to reap over $1.1 billion in tax from gambling at the expense of community wellbeing,” Dr Greenslade said.