IT IS “deeply disturbing” that punters in Bendigo are now losing $50 million a year, a gambling reform advocate says.
New electronic gaming machine figures show people are losing more money in Bendigo and across central Victoria as the state chalks up new records, according to the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
Victorians had their biggest annual increase in losses for more than a decade in 2018, the group’s director Tim Costello said.
Greater Bendigo’s jumped by $1.8 million in 2018, he said, following the government’s “reckless” decision to issue new 20 year pokies licences, he said.
“It was the biggest Bendigo venue, the All Seasons International Hotel, which was responsible for the largest jump as it increased pokies losses from $10.45m in 2017 to $11.26 million in 2018, a gain of eight per cent,” Mr Costello said.
The All Seasons had the fourth highest losses of any non-metropolitan venue, behind Zagame’s Ballarat Hotel, The Mildura Gateway Tavern and Geelong’s Grovedale Hotel.
It was now ranked 56th of 492 state-wide for losses, according to the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
Victorian minister for gaming and liquor regulation Marlene Kairouz said the state government has introduced a number of reforms to help reduce harm from pokies.
“We know how insidious (a) problem gambling can be,” Ms Kairouz said.
“That’s why we’re helping those who choose to gamble stick to their limits.”
Ms Kairouz said the government has frozen pokies numbers across the state, limited daily cash withdrawals in venues and capped the number of pokies in areas most vulnerable to gambling harm.
Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation figures showed the top three local venues over the last six months included the Bendigo District RSL, and the Bendigo Stadium.
Bendigo gamblers lost $26,271,618 at 11 venues in the last six months of the year. It was nearly $700,000 more than the same period in 2017.
Both the Maryborough Golf Club and Maryborough Highland Society recorded declines in the money patrons lost, helping the Central Goldfields Shire’s record a $173,493 drop.
Maryborough was the exception in central Victoria. The Kyneton and Gisborne venue patrons lost an extra $133,143, while Echuca and Kyabram’s lost an extra $103,701.
Castlemaine’s Cumberland Hotel patrons lost an extra $41,000, bringing their six-month total to $1,592,411.
Mr Costello wanted urgent reforms including $1 maximum bets and reduced trading hours.
The state government and the All Seasons have been contacted for comment.
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