Pokies losses concern Kingston councillors

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KINGSTON Councillors have voted unanimously to make a push to minimise the negative impact of pokies on the municipality.

Councillors voted on 26 November to “prepare a report for the first ordinary meeting of council in 2019 that outlines an advocacy strategy to curtail this issue and minimise harm caused by electronic gaming machines in the city of Kingston.”

The gaming machine industry is regulated by the state government. Councillors outlined their plan to call for reform, which they said could include capping the total number of pokies allowed in Kingston at 898. There are currently 898 pokies machines in Kingston, meaning no more could be installed. The current cap stands at 1200.

Other possible measures proposed by councillors were to “reduce the hours of operation at gaming venues from 10am to midnight, restrict designs in machines which can cause harm or addiction, introduce a $1 bet limit per button push,” and to “adopt a range of other measures to curb the impact of gaming in our community.”

A report from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation revealed gamblers in Kingston lost $86 million on pokies machines in the municipality during the 2017-2018 financial year.

The Dingley International Hotel was the venue that raked in the most from gamblers’ losses in Kingston, with gamblers losing $15 million at its 90 gaming machines. The venue ranked 16th of 498 venues across Victoria by how much money was lost on their poker machines (“Pokies losses hit new high”, The News 8/8/18) .

“By working together with other local councils, we can highlight the devastating impact gambling is having on our community and join forces to call for tighter regulation by the Victorian Government,” Kingston mayor Cr Georgina Oxley said.

Cr Steve Staikos said “if we get an application for a casino with 300 gaming machines in it, it would still fit within the cap we have at the city of Kingston. That is really dangerous territory, and we can’t risk that.”

In 2017, Kingston Council paid $25,000 to joined the an Alliance for Gambling Reform alongside the councils of Melbourne, Greater Dandenong, Moreland, Whittlesea, and Monash.

First published in the Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News – 5 December 2018

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