Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Marlene Kairouz said the government welcomed any work that mitigated the damaging effects of problem gambling.
"As part our work to tackle problem gambling, we've 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," Ms Kairouz said.
MORE people are seeking help for problem gambling in the Loddon Mallee as losses in Bendigo continue to rise.
Gamblers lost $51,218,482 in electronic gambling machines across 11 Greater Bendigo venues during 2019. It's an increase of more than a million from the previous year.
Alliance for Gambling Reform chief advocate Tim Costello said money taken by pokie machines in the city was a "blight" on the people of Bendigo and its economy.
Anglicare program manager for Loddon Mallee Gambler's Help Tracey Grinter said the number of people seeking help had risen significantly this financial year.
In 2018/19, 503 people sought help from Gambler's Help, she said.
More than 440 people sought help by December 2019/2020, she said.
Ms Grinter said the program saw people suffering health and mental health problems, anxiety, relationship breakdown, financial problems and employment difficulties as a result of gambling.
Reverend Costello said a substantial percentage losses came from people experiencing gambling harm. He said this was often worse in areas that could least afford the losses.
Losses on poker machines were equivalent to $441 for each Bendigo resident.
Reverend Costello said as the majority of Bendigo residents did not gamble on poker machines, that meant thousands were being lost by some individuals.
"That's incredibly sad, but it's the reality of the gambling industry. They exploit people to make money, it's as simple as that. Poker machines are designed to be deliberately addictive," Reverend Costello said.
"That money taken is money that people won't have to spend on goods and service in Bendigo, effectively bleeding the local economy of the jobs and growth that politicians are so fond of speaking about.
"Poker machines are an effective drain on local economies. We know that a substantial percentage of those losses come from people experiencing gambling harm, and that gambling harm is often at its worst in areas that can least afford the losses."
Greater Bendigo punters lost the most at the All Seasons Hotel, peaking at $5,953,661 from July to December 2019.
Pokies at the Bendigo District RSL took in the second highest amount of money, $4,497,386 during that period.
This was followed by the Windemere Hotel and the Bendigo Stadium, which took in $3,443,839 and $3,171,202 respectively.
The Windemere Hotel took in the most money per poker machine during the past six months, with an average spend of $86,096 on each of the club's 40 machines.
This was followed by the All Seasons, where each of the club's 99 machines took in $60,138.
Reverend Costello called on the Victorian government to implement reform to reduce gambling harm in Bendigo.
He called for reduced trading hours, regulation to slow the spin rate of poker machines, reduction of the maximum bet from $5 to $1, and the banning of "losses disguised as wins".
Reverend Costello said the Victorian government should address gambling harm as a public health issue. He said more than 20 per cent of costs for mental health services in the state were accounted for by people experiencing gambling harm, but it was not mentioned in the scope of the Royal Commission.
All the venues mentioned were approached for comment.
The Victorian government was approached for comment.
Gamblers Help 1800 244 323.
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