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Urgent reforms needed to prevent gambling harm when pokies return

8 September 2020

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

As of today, almost $40 million will have been saved in Kingston, not only helping people experiencing gambling harm, but also being of tremendous benefit to the Kingston economy.

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

“The shutdown will also have helped people experiencing gambling harm to take a much-needed break from gambling on poker machines and meant they could 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,” said Cr Oxley.

“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 move now to prevent a potential tsunami of gambling harm in Victoria. 

Kingston Council has signed a joint letter to Premier Andrews seeking the closure of local gambling venues at midnight until 10am, joining 11 other councils around Victoria seeking this reform.

“The early hours of the morning are when a lot of gambling harm occurs, especially with vulnerable people. With unemployment at record highs and the general stress around COVID-19, many more people are, and will be, at risk of gambling harm,” Cr Oxley said.

“Closing venues at midnight is a simple, yet effective, measure to reduce gambling harm.

“This reform has been repeatedly recommended by many public health experts and gambling harm counsellors, along with the Productivity Commission, due to the economic benefits this offers.

“Local businesses are doing it particularly tough right now. We need to keep money in our local communities. 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 closing venues from midnight to 10am will reduce gambling harm in the City of Kingston. There is nothing positive happening in a poker machine venue in the early hours of the morning. 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 currently 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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