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Victorian local government wants control of pokies

Thu, Oct 6, 12:33pm by Staff Writer

As council elections in Victoria draw near, a recent survey of local government candidates found that 98 percent of respondents would prefer jurisdictional authority over where pokie machines are placed throughout the community.

The survey also observed 99 percent of respondents in favor of removing ‘misleading and deceptive feature’ from pokies and other electronic gambling games.

Even though the survey was conducted by the anti-pokies lobbying group known as the Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR), the two-part questionnaire was administered only to candidates seeking office in Victoria’s local council elections later this month.

The pair of questions posed to candidates by the AGR survey read as follows:

“Do you support the removal of all misleading and deceptive features programmed into electronic gaming machines (pokies)?”

“Do you support local governments having proper authority over the location of poker machines in their respective communities?”

An email containing the questions above was sent out to 1,756 candidates, and a total of 493 candidates responded to the questionnaire – reflecting roughly 85 percent of Victoria’s local government presence. All told, 98 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative to the first question about removing deceptive features, while 99 percent agreed with the notion of empowering local councils to regulate the placement of pokie machines.

In a statement announcing the poll’s results, AGR spokesman Tim Costello asserted that the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal had become nothing more than a ‘rubber stamp’ for the de facto approval of pokie machine expansions:

“Victorian councils have clearly had enough of being overruled by the state, and overrun with poker machines. Local governments get none of the revenue, and yet they are expected to spend billions of dollars cleaning up the shocking mess made by this misleading and addictive product.”

“Successive state governments have gamed the system to ensure local governments are powerless to protect their communities from poker machines. But these overwhelming results show the current situation won’t be tolerated after the election.”

The survey serves as one tool in the AGR’s wider campaign to raise public awareness regarding the perceived dangers of pokie play.

As part of the organization’s “Pokies Play You” program, the AGR has erected billboards to warn players about allegedly deceptive marketing practices. Television adverts have also carried the Pokies Play You message to Victoria residents, linking habitual pokie play to cocaine use, and claiming that pokie manufacturers are “addiction specialists.”

As the anti-gambling sentiment in Australia continues to build, punctuated by the rise of Senator Nick Xenophon and his hardline coalition in the Parliament, councils throughout Victoria have expressed concern that their advice on pokie reform is being ignored. Specifically, local governments have claimed that input offered to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) on pokie additions has been routinely disregarded at the state level.

Victoria is home to the largest concentration of pokies in Australia, due in large part to the presence of Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex in Melbourne. As of April 2015, the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (VRGF) found that 29,031 pokie machines were operational throughout the state, including 26,403 found in clubs and hotels, 18,760 in the greater Melbourne metropolitan area, and 2,628 inside Crown Casino itself.

On an annual basis Victoria draws in excess of AUD$1 billion from pokie-related taxes and licensing fees. Conversely, Victorian residents recorded AUD$2.5 billion in pokie losses last year alone.

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