The state government is just as addicted to poker machine windfalls as addicts are, Brimbank council believes.
Brimbank is the state’s leading loser on poker machines for the ninth consecutive year.
The latest Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation data found $143million was lost on Brimbank pokies over the past financial year, well clear of its nearest rival, Casey, which lost $124.8million.
Chair of administrators John Watson, an outspoken critic of pokies and the damage they cause, said it was a “great shame” he was leaving his post in October, with Brimbank’s thirst for pokies still unabated.
“Words can’t describe how sickening that is [that Brimbank is number one for losses],” he said.
“There’s lots of evidence to say they’re [gaming machines] concentrated where the most vulnerable communities are, and where people can least afford the losses.
“It’s a spiralling problem.”
Mr Watson said councils are powerless to solve the issue.
“The problem is councils don’t control these machines – when we do oppose them … it’s almost inevitable they’ll [our objections] be overridden when they go before state bodies,” Mr Watson said.
“Councils simply can’t stop these machines.”
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal overturned the council’s opposition to an extra 22 gaming machines at St Albans’ Club Italia in 2012.
City development director Stuart Menzies said the council approved an extra 12 pokies for a Deer Park club last year, because “a refusal of the application would have been futile … it was unlikely the refusal would have been upheld at VCAT”.
Mr Watson said government policy had to change.
“There’s enormous revenue from these things – governments are addicted, like people become addicted; they rely on the money,” he said.
“I think lowering the amount you can bet at any one time, not having ATMs in the vicinity of poker machines [are options].
“There needs to be an actual deliberate process of winding back the numbers.”