Pokies cap to ‘plateau’ spending

NEW restrictions on electronic gaming machines will hit Wellington Shire, locking in a cap on pokies.

The Gambling Regulation Amendment (Gaming Machine Arrangements) Bill 2017 has extended regional caps to more local government areas across the state including Wellington and East Gippsland Shires. This means no more machines can be added in Wellington Shire, capping the LGA at 324 machines.

This number, previously under a municipal cap that restricted the shire to 10 machines per 1000 residents, will not change in the future, and any venues looking for extra machines would need to source them from other operators.

The cap is part of several state government reforms, including withdrawal limits of $500 within a 24-hour period within gaming venues, and banning cashing of cheques.

There will also be restrictions on cashless gaming, a ban on static advertising on public transport, roads, and within 150 metres of schools, and a state-wide cap on machine entitlements of 27,372, with a venue cap of 105 machines for the next 25 years.

Minister for Gaming and Liquor Regulation Marlene Kairouz said the reforms would help people.

“We have already taken strong action to reduce the harm from gambling on our community — and these measures go even further,” she said.

“This is about protecting people and helping those who choose to gamble stick to their limits.” 

Wellington Shire’s community wellbeing manager Karen McLennan said reducing harm from gambling had been a focus in the municipal public health and wellbeing plan.

“A total of $21,829,658 was spent on gaming machines in Wellington during 2016-17,” she said.

“Council is pleased that there is recognition from state government authorities that our population is susceptible to harm from gambling, however a singular approach such as introducing a cap is one part of the solution.

“Community education, work with venues who provide access to electronic gaming machines and having the right support services available locally also form part of the solution to reducing harms from gambling.” 

Latrobe Community Health Service’s Gambler’s Help partnership officer Tenille Thorburn said the cap was a step in the right direction.

“What we’ve seen in other areas is an increase in EGM numbers leads to an increase in expenditure on those machines,” she said.

“Hopefully a cap in Wellington Shire will mean spending will plateau ... any measures that limit people’s access, like through ATM withdrawals, are certainly positive changes.”

Ms Thorburn encouraged people with a problem, or people who recognise a friend or loved one may have a problem, to reach out.

“Very few people, due to the shame and stigma associated with gambling, seek formal help for their addiction, despite support in that area being very well resourced — for example, our resource is more than happy to support anyone who’s affected by gambling, but due to the stigma, there’s very few people seeking that support,” she said.

“We provide a venue support program that trains staff on the signs on problem gambling, and how to respond to that, that’s one way we’re linking people into the support and encouraging conversations about problem gambling and impact on individuals, friends, family, and the community.

“We want venues to be as safe and informative for their patrons as they can be.”

Sale Greyhound Club, which turned over more than $5.7 million through the pokies during the 2016-17 financial year, declined to comment at this time.

For more information about Gambler’s Help services, visit www.lchs.com.au/gambling-alcohol-drugs/gambling or phone 1800 242 696.

Gippsland Senior
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