Social impact of poker machines counted in Castlemaine VCAT ruling

CENTRAL Victoria has more than enough poker machines, according to social welfare groups St Luke’s.

With 65 poker machines proposed for Castlemaine denied by VCAT, St Luke’s senior manager of community programs Phil Eddy said he was hopeful the decision would set a precedent.

Mr Eddy said there was an increasing social and economic impact of the machines that were “devastating” central Victorian communities. 

“In our region we see about 250 individuals a year who have come to us for problem gambling issues,” he said. “For everyone we see, there’s another 10 other people that don’t come forward to talk about their addictions.”

Mr Eddy said there were a number of councils and community groups that could take the lead from Mount Alexander Shire in opposing poker machine developments.

“It’s pleasing that VCAT has actually acknowledged that social impact. If there are plans to increase poker machines in other communities, they can learn from Castlemaine,” he said. 

Most problem gamblers lived in regional areas, and were often isolated, Mr Eddy said. 

Figures from St Lukes showed that Maryborough had the highest spending rate per head of population in the state, with approximately $10 million spent on pokies every year. 

People worried about problem gambling can contact St Luke’s on 1800 244 323.– JOSH FAGAN

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