Whittlesea gamblers are pouring more money than ever into poker machines, with the city recording the highest increase in losses of any Victorian municipality in the past financial year.
Latest data from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR)revealed that close to $107 million was lost at poker machines in Whittlesea in 2016-17.
The amount of money lost rose by more than $3.5 million last financial year, up from $103.3 million in 2015-16. In Hume, player losses fell $277, 346 to $105.7 million in 2016-17. Whittlesea is also home to the top two venues for losses in Victoria – the Epping Plaza Hotel where almost $21 million was lost in 2016-17, and Mill Park’s Plough Hotel ($19.3 million).
Whittlesea Interagency Taskforce on Gambling (WITOG) spokesman Max Lee said the taskforce was troubled about the figures.
“WITOG is concerned gambling venues are taking more money out of the community with these addictive and dangerous gaming machines,” Mr Lee said.
“The poker machine industry is hurting Whittlesea families and contributing to rates of family violence, housing stress and mental health problems and poor local employment opportunities. That’s why we are advocating for change.”
Mr Lee said there was a higher concentration of gaming venues in areas of lower socio-economic status.
Whittlesea currently has 12 gaming venues.
The figures come as the Woolworths-owned Australia Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALHG) continues its Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) appeal against a decision by Whittlesea council and the VCGLR to prevent poker machines being installed in South Morang’s Commercial Hotel. The Plenty Road hotel does not currently have poker machines.
ALHG wants to install 40 machines at the hotel to help fund major renovations, with 20 of the machines to be relocated from the groups three other local hotels – the Plough, Bundoora Tavern and Excelsior – if the application is approved. The VCAT hearing began in June and is scheduled to continue on August 17.