GREATER Bendigo's electronic gambling machines appear unlikely to reach their record breaking pre-pandemic highs after ending their first full financial year without COVID-19 shutdowns.
But intakes are on the rise as anti-gambling advocates mark the 30th anniversary of the machines' introduction into Victoria.
More than $66 billion has been lost since then, the Alliance for Gambling Reform has estimated.
The first Victorian poker machines appeared on July 17, 1992 at the Dorset Gardens Hotel in Croydon.
There are now roughly 26,000s operating across the state, including around 660 at 11 venues in Bendigo.
Chief alliance advocate Tim Costello said the machines impacted vulnerable Victorians.
"The tragedy of this $66 billion figure is the profound damage this presents to countless people, families and communities," he said.
The alliance's 30-year loss estimate came with a caveat.
Regulator the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission is yet to release figures for June 2022 or the first weeks of July.
The alliance estimated losses for those periods.
Greater Bendigo gamblers spent almost $41 million at the machines in the 11 months to the end of May.
It was higher than the two previous financial years, when gambling machine intakes shrunk to $37.4 million and then $29.4 million thanks to the pandemic.
The 2021/22 figures were still down on the record $50.67 million that Greater Bendigo machines raked in 2018/19.
The alliance wants action to avoid the sorts of records being broken back then.
That includes uniform, mandatory closing hours of all poker machine venues from 2am to 6am to stop owners with multiple venues staggering hours to give 24 hour access.
The alliance also wants universal pre-commitments and maximum bets to be lowered to $1.
The current betting limit is $5.
It was $2 in 1992, when the government allowed the first 10,000 machines to begin rolling out.
In the first five-and-a-half months of that policy, people in what is today the City of Greater Bendigo spent $858,190 on poker machines.
That ballooned by 748 per cent the next year as more machines came on line and by the year 2000 they were spending $34.7 million.
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