By Laura Green
KINGSTON has joined 11 other councils to call on the state government to place stricter restrictions on electronic gaming machines.
A letter to Premier Daniel Andrews, signed by Kingston mayor Georgina Oxley, calls for the shutdown of pokies venues between midnight and 10am. Kingston has experienced some of the highest gambling losses of all Melbourne municipalities in the last five years.
The regulations, if adopted, would reduce poker machine operations from 20 hours per day to 14.
Data from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation showed Kingston gamblers lost $62.08 million on poker machines from July 2019 to March this year. The closure of bars and pubs during Melbourne’s first lockdown switched pokies off from April, saving Kingston’s local economy about $20 million based on past gambling losses.
Cr Oxley said the shutdown gave local residents the dual benefit of a “desperately needed” boost to their wallets due to COVID job losses along with a break from gambling establishments.
“The shutdown will also have helped people experiencing gambling harm to take a much-needed break from gambling on poker machines and meant they could pay their rent or mortgage, put food on their tables, pay other bills, and perhaps even buy simple things such as a coffee or pizza,” Cr Oxley said.
“We can get a silver lining out of COVID-19 if we can see reforms happen in Victoria that will reduce gambling harm. The entire community will benefit from this.”
The Alliance for Gambling Reform endorsed the measures outlined in the letter, which were recommended by the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission. They called for increased autonomy for councils to regulate against gambling harm to their residents.
“No level of government is closer to the devastation poker machines cause than the local council representing the people who live with pokies spread throughout their municipality,” Alliance for Gambling Reform chief advocate Tim Costello said.
“There are simply machines deliberately designed to entrance and addict people busily draining money from them and the Kingston economy.”