Academic calls for pokie reforms in Victoria

Victorians spent almost A$2.6 billion (US$1.9 billion) on electronic gaming machines in the past 12 months, according to Australian news outlet ABC.

The spending was up $43 million compared to 2014, with a significant amount of spending coming from gamblers from the state’s most disadvantaged areas.

The results have sparked calls for reforms at both state and federal levels.

Dr Charles Livingstone, a gambling researcher at Monash University said researchers found that machines tended to be concentrated in “areas of disadvantage and social stress”.

“And of course the companies that operate them are clever enough to work out where they’re going to make the money, and that’s where they put the machine.”

While the state government introduced a number of harm minimization policies, which include capping machine numbers, “…unfortunately the operators have now worked out how to start increasing the revenue again,” said Livingstone.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Gaming and Liquor Regulation Marlene Kairouz has reaffirmed her commitment to addressing problem gambling.

“Whilst gambling is a legitimate industry, we recognise and take seriously the harm caused by problem gambling,” Kairoz said.

“We have invested $148 million over the next four years to support problem gambling service providers and the YourPlay scheme.

However, Livingstone said the governments have been reluctant to tackle the issues because of revenue that they receive.

“So they have a very strong vested interest in keeping that revenue flowing.”