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Melton gamblers spending up at pokies

Thu, Aug 8, 7:57am by Staff Writer

Melton gamblers lost a record amount on gaming machines in the last financial year, continuing a six-year trend of growing losses.

The Star Weekly reports that almost $68 million was lost within the City of Melton in the 2018-19 financial year, up from $66 million in the previous year, $49.3 million in 2010-11 and $24 million in 2002-03, according to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.

Seven venues in Melton operate electronic gaming machines, sharing 515 machines in total.

Melton community planning manager Matt Wilson said the council was working hard to reduce the harm of pokies losses.

“Our work is focused on reducing the impact of the design and availability of gambling products, preventing exposure to young people and minors and challenging normalisation of electronic gaming machines,” he said.

“Council is committed to preventing and reducing the harms of gambling and we work to align with current health promotion and prevention practice.

“Earlier this year, council adopted a Planning Scheme Amendment (C182) that included a Local Planning Policy in Gaming.”

Moorabool gamblers lost $12.3 million on pokies for the 2018-19 year – up from $11.9 million the previous year, while nearby Brimbank topped the state again with $142.9 million in losses.

Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello said Victorian pokies losses were about more than money.

“In extreme cases, poker machines cause the loss of lives via suicide,” he said. “Then there is the loss of homes, families, relationships, jobs, cars and much more due to gambling harm.

“We call on the Victorian government to outlaw the predatory and addictive features on poker machines that trick people into believing they are winning when they are actually losing money.

“These losses disguised as wins and near misses are just abuse of punters and are frankly immoral.”

Bombers pokies lease secured until 2047

An attempt to overturn Melton Council’s decision to extend the Essendon Football Club’s 29-year lease of the Melton Country Club has failed.

The council voted unanimously in December for Essendon’s continued operation of Melton Country Club and its 89 poker machines until the end of 2047.

Councillor Steve Abboushi put forward a rescission motion following that meeting, in a bid to enable more community voices.

Cr Abboushi’s motion was voted down at last Monday’s meeting, the first of the year.

“You can only try your best to minimise any harm to the community,” Cr Abboushi told The Star Weekly in February.

“I didn’t have the majority in the end, which is a bit disappointing.”

Cr Abboushi and three other councillors supported the motion.

The council initially backed the pokies lease in a unanimous vote in December, but a successful motion to repeal the lease was put forward by councillor Steve Abboushi in a bid to hear from more voices in the community regarding the plan.

According to the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Melton suffered A$27.7 million in AFL club-sponsored pokies losses across three venues in 2017 and 2018.

AFL clubs have recently announced they will be divesting themselves of poker machine interests across the western suburbs.

Hawthorn’s associated with the WestWaters Hotel in Caroline Springs and Collingwood’s link to The Club in Caroline Springs are just two of the venues where AFL clubs will not longer be tied.

Alliance for Gambling Reform director Tim Costello last year urged councillors to refuse to extend Essendon’s lease.

“If the Melton councillors are brave and reject the officer recommendation to stay in the gambling business, it will have a powerful motivating impact on the reform movement,” Mr Costello said.

Melton Country Club is home to the Melton RSL, which relies on pokies revenue to upkeep its facilities.

RSL secretary Kevin Murray has a loss of the club’s ongoing sponsorship; facilities and hospitality would be “detrimental to the Melton RSL.”

“The Melton RSL sub-branch is a relatively new, relatively small, sub-branch,” Mr Murray said last week.

“Until our entry into an agreement with the Melton Country Club, we were not able to offer our members access to the usual facilities expected of an RSL sub-branch… a dining room, bar, function rooms, and in some instances, gaming rooms.

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