Greens candidate for Bendigo West Laurie Whelan believes the current measures in place to reduce harm from poker machines are “band-aid solutions”, as the Victorian Greens on Thursday launched a policy to phase out gaming machines across the state within the next 10 years.
The Greens’ policy aims to repeal the Labor government’s poker machine legislation introduced last year and not offer gaming licences after 2028.
The Greens also pledged to give local councils the power to choose whether to grant a new licence to poker machine operators in their community or to remove pokies from 2022.
Currently, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation has the final say on all licences across the state.
Mr Whelan admitted some local organisations who relied on poker machine revenue did put money back into the community, for example through the provision of sporting facilities.
“Despite this there’s a strong argument to pull out of pokies all together because of negative impact,” he said.
“Yes it provides employment and has contributed to sporting stadiums but that's at the expense of great heartache and impact to certain communities.”
Each poker machine in Bendigo takes an average of $183 per day from punters.
Poker machines in the City of Greater Bendigo generated $49,335,226 in 2017/18, an increase of 3.3 per cent on the previous year.
The figure covered the 700 machines in Bendigo, and the 39 licences that were sold by the former City Family Hotel for $300,000 in September last year.
Labor MP for Bendigo West and Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation board member Maree Edwards said gambling was a legitimate recreational activity.
“Unfortunately there's people that do it more than recreationally...as a consequence of that we have to manage the risks and addictions,” she said.
Ms Edwards said poker machines were just one facet of an industry which had an emerging problem of online gambling.
“Irrespective of whether you remove poker machines or not, gambling will still exist. More and more people have access to (mobile) phones. We will continue to work very hard to look at how we can address problems with online gambling and continue to monitor it,” she said.
The state government last year froze statewide poker machine allocations for 25 years, but also extended of ‘terms’ for machines – from 10 to 20 years – to give venues more financial stability.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.