Wed, Jul 31, 7:42am by Staff Writer
Bendigo gamblers have lost more money to electronic gaming machines than at any other time in 17 years, at the very least.
The Bendigo Advertiser is reporting that punters across greater Bendigo lost nearly $50.7 million last financial year.
That is the highest total since at least 2002/03, which is the earliest the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation’s online data set dates.
The losses are $12.17 million more than the city’s lowest tally, recorded in 2003/04 and are part of a three-year rise from $47.75 million.
The level of gmabling harm in Bendigo was already a significant issue before this year’s $1.3 million rise, Anglicare Victoria’s regional director Francis Lynch said.
“To see losses go up is disappointing, but it’s not unexpected,” he said.
The rise might in part be explained by a small number of electronic gaming machines reintroduced at a Bendigo hotel,” Mr Lynch said.
Anglicare Victoria’s Gambler’s Help Program sees a steady stream of people in Bendigo coming through its doors, Mr Lynch said.
“There’s a certain percentage of people – and it’s a small, but significant percentage – who struggle to keep gambling in balance with the rest of their lives,” he said.
Losses can be far more than just financial, Alliance for gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello said.
“In extreme cases, poker machines cause the loss of lives via suicide. Then there is the loss of homes, families, relationships, jobs, cars and much more due to gambling harm,” he said.
The Gambler’s Help Program helped 531 clients in 2018/19 through a mixture of financial and therapeutic counselling, Mr Lynch said.
Many did so off their own bat after seeing advertisements in clubs or on television, he said.
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“On some occasions the venue actually do the right thing and identify someone is having a problem. Then they refer that person to us,” Mr Lynch said.
“And sometimes it’s a family member who is living with that experience of someone who is not coping and struggling to gamble safely.”
Most of the people who come to Anglicare can make “significant improvements” to finances and relationships, Mr Lynch said.
“Some people can reduce their gambling and just maintain a safe level,” he said.
“But more commonly, people need to find a way of stopping gambling.
“There are ways of doing that, like having themselves put on a banned-list at a venue.”
Bendigo’s total of $50,671,967.86 comes as Victorians lost the second highest amount since pokies were introduced in Victoria.
A loss of $2.698 billion last financial year, a $3.5 million increase on the year before, but shy of the record $2.707 billion in losses recorded in 2008-09, according to Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation data.
This means, on average, Victorians lost $530 on pokies last financial year, Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello said.
“But when you look at the data more closely, you have much more significant losses in Greater Dandenong with a $907 average per adult, in Brimbank it’s $879 and in Latrobe it’s $754,” he said.
“Those are some astounding monetary losses,”
“We must not forget that poker machines lead to the loss of much more than money. In extreme cases, poker machines cause the loss of lives via suicide. Then there is the loss of homes, families, relationships, jobs, cars and much more due to gambling harm.
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