Residents of Whittlesea have backed the local council’s efforts to reduce the number of poker machines in the municipality.
Recently, a community attitudes and liveability survey has been conducted by the local council in order for the latter to examine the characteristics, needs, behaviours and expectations of the Whittlesea community. Various aspects of local people’s lives, including employment, health and well-being, gambling habits, environmental sustainability, etc. were reviewed at the time of the survey, in order for the city council to get a better perspective of the community.
As a result, it became clear that over 61% of the Whittlesea residents who participated in the study backed the council’s opinion there were too many pokies in the area and their number should be reduced. Kris Pavlidis, Mayor of Whittlesea, shared that the survey data bolstered the council’s decisiveness to insist on poker machine reform.
The local council has already been engaged with a campaign against poker machines in the area. Back in July, it backed the Alliance for Gambling Reform’s push for a decreased number of pokies in the local gambling facilities.
Whittlesea’s Mayor explained that the city’s residents strongly agreed that there are currently too many opportunities for gambling. Ms. Pavlidis shared that local residents have recognised pokies as a serious social problem, as excessive gambling usually has a strong negative impact on people’s physical and mental health.
Whittlesea Residents Among the Largest Spenders on Pokies
Currently, there are 691 poker machines in Whittlesea. In addition, the city also hosts four of the state’s top 10 venues which generated the largest customers’ losses on pokies. According to recent reports, the money lost on poker machines in the city amount to AU$106 million in 2017/2018.
A few months ago, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) provided some data, according to which Whittlesea punters lost over AU$60 million on local gambling machines. The two gambling venues which saw the largest losses on pokies in the second half of 2017 were Epping Plaza Hotel (AU$10.99 million) and Plough Hotel (AU$9.82 million), respectively. Both venues are currently owned by ALH Group, which is controlled by Woolworths.
As mentioned above, Whittlesea’s council has already joined the call for poker machine reform of the Alliance for Gambling Reform. The Alliance has insisted that political parties need to join forces in order to stop the Government’s decision to greenlight another 199 pokies in the city.
Apart from reducing the number of pokies, the council has been insisting also for stricter measures in terms of venues offering poker machines and have called for the local Government to shut such venues down from 2:00 AM to 8:00 AM. Campaigners further call for a maximum bet limit of AU$1 per spin to be imposed, as well as slower spinning rates to be implemented in the machines.