Urgent reforms needed to prevent gambling harm when pokies return in Kingston

Urgent reforms needed to prevent gambling harm when pokies return in Kingston

Kingston Council is calling on the Victorian Government to urgently enact reforms to prevent gambling harm when poker machines are turned back on in the area on 20 July.

As of 29 June, over $20.5 million has been saved in Kingston, which not only will have helped people experiencing gambling harm, but will also have been of a tremendous benefit to the Kingston economy.

“The COVID-19 shutdown of poker machines in Kingston since late March has been a real boost to the local economy at a time it has been desperately needed,” Kingston Mayor Georgina Oxley said.

“The shutdown will also have aided people experiencing gambling harm to take a much-needed break from gambling on poker machines. That will have helped people pay their rent or mortgage, put food on their tables, pay other bills, and perhaps even buy simple things such as a coffee or pizza.

“There is no doubt that gambling addiction is a serious and often insidious issue in Kingston. We know there are connections between gambling harm and mental ill-health, family violence, homelessness and other important social and health issues that we care deeply about in Kingston. Anything that we can do to reduce gambling harm is a good thing for the whole community.”

Cr Oxley said it was imperative Premier Daniel Andrews enacted urgent reforms to reduce gambling harm in the area.

“There are some simple yet effective reforms that the Victorian Government could immediately make, including a reduction in the opening hours of pokies venues, which is in line with the Productivity Commission recommendation from 2010,” Cr Oxley said.

“We’d also like to see the removal of harmful pokies design features including ‘losses disguised as wins’, which has already occurred in Queensland and Tasmania.

“We’d welcome economic policies that reduce poker machine numbers and support clubs to become gambling-free, such as the recently announced ACT pokies buy-back scheme or ‘sinking lid’ policies in New Zealand, which would help reduce gambling harm and support community clubs to recover.

“Local businesses are doing it particularly tough right now. We want and need to keep money in our local communities. Last year $85.7 million was lost from our area to poker machines. Every dollar lost to poker machines is money extracted from our local economy.”

Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, applauded Kingston Council for recognising the harm poker machines cause in their community and for making reform calls.

“No level of government is closer to the devastation poker machines cause than the local council representing the people who live with pokies spread throughout their municipality,” Rev Costello said. “It’s unfair that local councils have so little say about a business operating in their community that can do so much damage to their residents.

“Reforms such as reduced venue opening hours will reduce gambling harm in Kingston. There is nothing positive happening in a poker machine venue past midnight. There is no food being served, no community spirit of catching up over a meal. There are simply machines deliberately designed to entrance and addict people busily draining money from them and the Kingston economy.

“It is absurd that poker machines are allowed on for 20 hours per day throughout Victoria. Public health and addiction experts have been saying this is dangerous for years and it is time changes happened. We can get a silver lining out of COVID-19 if we can see reforms happen in Victoria that will reduce gambling harm. The entire community will benefit from this.”

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