The mayor of Hume, along with six other like-minded councils, has called on the Victorian government to follow the footsteps of New South Wales and Tasmania in reforming the pokies industry in the state.
In a letter addressed to the premier, Mayor Joseph Haweil and the councils wrote: “We call upon the Victorian Government to seize upon the national momentum for progressive gambling reform to protect our communities and improve the lifetime wellbeing of all Victorians.”
The letter pointed out that the pokies industry in the state is not doing enough to protect punters from gambling harm. In 2022, Victoria’s punters lost $2.4 billion to the pokies.
Bree Hughes, residing in western Melbourne, recounted her struggle with gambling and how it led to her serving a term in prison.
“You don’t even realise what you’re doing. Like what money you’re spending, or whose money you’re spending,” Hughes said.
“I’d wake up and I’d go straight to the pokies. It’d be nothing for me to go to four, five, six, seven venues in a day.”
Despite her story and many others like it, pokies operators in Victoria maintain that they look out enough for players through the self-exclusion program YourPlay.
YourPlay is the voluntary pre-commitment system that lets players set a limit on how much they can lose to the pokies. However, many people have pointed out how ineffective it is.
Meanwhile, NSW has decided that by 2025 all pokies machines will go cashless, while in Tasmania there is a mandatory pre-commitment scheme where players are made to set daily loss limits of $100, monthly limits of $500 and annual limits of $5,000.
Hume and the six other councils – Casey, Whittlesea, Wyndham, Dandenong, Monash and Darebin – have a vested interest in the reforms seeing as their regions are the most affected in the state.
Speaking on the self-regulation, Mayor Haweil said: “If we allow the industry to continue to self-regulate, what we’re effectively doing is giving Dracula the keys to the blood bank.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the government responding to the call for reforms said: “We note the various motions moved by respective councils.
“We will continue to monitor the arrangements for hotels and clubs across the state to ensure we have the appropriate regulatory settings and reserve the right to make further changes.”