The Victorian government has spent the past few years working hard to reduce the potential harm caused by poker machines. Many of the measures were effective, and the state initially saw some improvement in problem gambling rates. Unfortunately, a new report has shown that pokie spending is now back on the increase.
Over the course of the past year, Victorians have spent $43 million more on pokies than they had in 2015. Gaming experts in the state believe that this is due to the fact that more poker machines are being installed in low income areas, as well as in venues that serve alcohol. Combined, these two issues can be quite harmful for poker machine players, especially those who are at-risk of developing gambling addictions.
This is a steep jump from gambling spending in previous years, as Victoria’s initial harm reduction strategies were quite effective. For example, the ATM ban on gaming floors and the headphone ban for players using pokies helped to drive down gambling spending. However, something more needs to be done in order to help prevent problem gambling rates from rising.
Charles Livingstone, a gambling researcher at Monash University has commented on the issue, saying:
“In Victoria, both the Liberal and Labor parties have introduced harm minimisation policies, which have had good effect, have seen a reduction in the losses, and they’ve capped machine numbers and so on. And all of those have been good. Unfortunately, the operators have now worked out how to start increasing the revenue again.”
We look forward to seeing what kind of new and innovative harm reduction measures Victorian lawmakers will come up with next. These laws will continue to set examples for other states across Australia, helping to reduce gambling spending nationally.