WELLINGTON Shire residents lost a massive $21.74 million to gaming machines in the 2015-16 financial year, according to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation figures.
More than $15.6 million of that was lost at Sale gaming venues, and the majority at two clubs, Sale Greyhound Racing Club, where about $6.3 million was lost, and Sporting Legends in Sale, where players lost more than $6.1 million.
Wellington Shire has 324 gaming machines, 252 of those in Sale.
Across Gippsland’s six local government areas, total losses at the pokies amounted to a staggering $126.5 million, an increase of $3 million on the previous year.
Wellington Shire mayor Darren McCubbin said it was disappointing that shire residents had lost even more this year to gaming machines than the previous year.
“That loss equates to a staggering annual average of over $650 for every adult in Wellington Shire,” he said.
“Consider what else that money might be spent on, or invested in.”
Cr McCubbin said there were nine electronic gaming machines per 1000 residents in Wellington Shire.
“This is higher than the state average of six per 1000,” he said.
“In the statistical local area of Sale, that number rises dramatically to 19 per 1000.
“Late last year, we conducted a community attitudes survey toward pokies.
“Our residents’ response was an overwhelming no to any increases on the number of pokies in Wellington.”
Cr McCubbin said it was important for council to advocate toward finding the right balance of machines and residents.
“It’s also important for users to find their own right balance, recognise if it becomes a problem and seek the right help,” he added.
The haemorrhaging of money to electronic gaming machines has prompted Gambler’s Help to remind locals that help is available for problem gamblers.
Gamblers Help partnership officer Tenille Thorburn said while the latest figures represented a slight increase on the total loss in the previous financial year, it was still a huge amount of money considering many residents already faced social disadvantage.
“We want to remind people that there are ways they can seek help if they are concerned about their gambling behaviour,” said Ms Thorburn.
“Gambling can be addictive, and as with all addictions, you should get professional help.
“Through the Gambler’s Help service at Latrobe Community Health Service, we provide therapeutic and financial counselling, recovery assistance and education.
“These services are free and confidential.”
Ms Thorburn also reminded people they were not alone.
“It’s estimated that for every one person experiencing problems with their gambling, up to 10 other people are impacted,” she said.
“Problem gambling can be linked to mental health issues, financial difficulty and relationship breakdowns,” she said.
“Gambling is meant to be a form of entertainment, and not a way to cope with or escape from other social or personal issues.”
Amount lost at Wellington Shire poker machine venues in the 2015-2016 financial year, according to Gambling and Liquor Regulation Commission figures:
Sale and District Greyhound Racing Club: $6,304,746.23.
Sporting Legends, Sale: $6,132,348.42.
Yarram Country Club: $2,387,632.11.
Maffra Community Sports Club: $2,362,377.70.
Star Hotel, Sale: $2,350,597.59.
Sale RSL and Community Sub-Branch: $1,337,438.07.
Lakeside Club, Sale: $869,801.92.
Total: $ 21,744,942.04