Brimbank Council calls for urgent action following surge in pokies losses

Brimbank City Council has called on the Victorian Government to take urgent action following a surge in losses from electronic gaming machines (EGM) in December 2020 and January 2021.

The Mayor of Brimbank, Cr Ranka Rasic, has written to the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation requesting that gaming venue operating hours be reduced to prevent further damaging losses.

Daily losses in our municipality reached a staggering $474,914 during December 2020, representing a 23 per cent increase on the same time the previous year.

The recently announced January 2021 statistics show an increase in losses of 26 per cent, or $2.9 million, compared to the same time last year. These are by far the largest increases of any Victorian municipality.

Following health advice, gaming venues in the state initially re-opened on 9 November 2020 with strict conditions, including maximum 16 hour daily operating hours, 10 person gaming room limits and 90 minute ‘dwell time’ restrictions.

These measures contributed to a 42 per cent reduction in daily losses in November 2020 across Victoria, including an encouraging 35 per cent reduction in Brimbank.

However, these restrictions were relaxed on 23 November, paving the way for the most devastating consecutive monthly EGM losses ever recorded in Victoria.

Data released by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation shows total losses of $14.7 million in December 2020 and $13.8 million in January 2021 across 15 local gaming venues, Brimbank’s two highest monthly losses since EGMs were introduced in 1992.

The sharp increase in losses in both December and January demonstrates the importance of evidence-based harm reduction measures.

The top three venues in Victoria, ranked according to increased daily losses, are all located in Brimbank.

Moreover, Brimbank is home to seven of the top 20 venues in Victoria following the lifting of restrictions and re-opening of venues. All but one of these venues operates for the maximum allowable 20 hours per day.

Quotes to be attributed to Brimbank Mayor Cr Ranka Rasic:

“Brimbank has been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with increasing unemployment, growing reliance on income support, and significant impacts on local business.

“We simply cannot maintain these damaging losses, particularly within our more vulnerable groups and communities.

“Following my letter to the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation in December, the importance of reform has been reinforced with the continuation of distressing losses shown in the January figures.

“On behalf of Council, I’m calling on the Victorian Government to act immediately to modify the licensing conditions of all gaming venues in Victoria, to limit operation to a maximum of 16 hours per day.”

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