Taking stock of the pokies cost

photo by Jayme Constandino
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A south-east Victorian city council is looking at ways to deal with the financial and social cost of electronic gaming machines. Jayme Constandino reports.

The City of Casey in south east Victoria is tackling the financial and social losses incurred by gamblers using electronic gaming machines (pokies).

The Casey Council recently adopted its Electronic Gaming Machine Strategy (2015-2020). “The strategy acknowledges the arm that can occur on individual individuals and families as a result of problem gambling and strives through advocacy and good practice to see this reduce over time,” CEO of Casey council Mike Tyler says.

With 898 pokie machines in the community, the council is reassessing policies with their “long term commitment” to reduce the “negative impact” of this form of gambling.

According to the head of knowledge and information for the Gambling Information Resource Office (GIRO), Tony Phillips, gambling becomes problematic if “it causes harm to yourself or to your family”.

“Where you live will affect the amount of harm you experience,” he says, “Factors such as income and accessibility to products, will most likely determine the types of harm associated.

“Products that are most associated with harm are pokies.”

The eight towns in Casey are home to 898 pokie machines, which is an average of 112.25 machines in each area.

Research from gambling expert Dr Charles Livingstone reports that:”we need a combination of both state and federal action to make sure that the most efficient harm minimisation measures are introduced”.

Mr Tyler refers to research undertaken by Dr Livingstone and says that the convenience of location of pokies does have a role influencing a person to gamble.

According to the Electronic Gaming Machine Strategy (2015-2020), the City of Casey council aims to provide a balanced assessment of how council considers current and any new introduction of electronic gaming machines in the community.

Similarly, the nearby, Cardinia Shire Council released a Responsible Gaming Policy for 2005-2009 which has similar goals for the regulation electronic gaming machines.

Brooke Tempelton, the principal strategic planner for the Cardinia Council says that the work that came out of the attempted policy adjustment was new policy frameworks to guide decision making for the council in regards to gaming machines.

“There was definitely a gap and the community to provide more guidance in relation to applications that were made for gaming machines; where they should and shouldn’t be located; encouraging venues to encourage carrying on other activities”, says Ms. Tempelton.

The Cardinia Council is now working the policy guidelines from 2005-2009 into their planning schemes going forward.

For the 2015/2016 financial year, it was reported by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, that total expenditure on pokies use in the City of Casey was $124,817,967.33.

This amount from 13 pokie operating venues compared to the Cardinia Shire’s $25,041,008.45 and six venues shows a sizeable difference and potential problem within the Casey region.

Casey Council’s CEO Mike Tyler believes the amount of pokies in his jurisdiction isn’t to be considered as a risk.

“Individuals who are identified as problem gamblers represent only a small portion of the community”, Mr. Tyler says.

According to Mr Philips from GIRO the concern is the total number of people gambling has dropped a little but the amount of times they’re gambling has gone up.

“This is likely to mean that these people are incurring more harm – it’s deeper,” he says.

The Gambling and Health Report from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation in 2014 reported that 86 per cent of problem gamblers bet in local pubs.

“High levels of access tend to lead to greater amounts of problems,” Mr Philips says.

“We (GIRO) support ways of winding back access to some degree, particularly access in communities where there’s levels of vulnerability”.

In the Casey area, pokie-free venues substitute the presence pf pokies with unofficial, organised activities.

The Central Hotel in Beaconsfield is one of the only pokie-free venues within a 15 kilometre radius of neighbouring pokie-free venues.

“The strategy acknowledges the arm that can occur on individual individuals and families as a result of problem gambling and strives through advocacy and good practice to see this reduce over time” CEO of Casey council Mike Tyler says.

With 898 poker machines in the community, the council is reassessing policies with their “long term commitment” to reduce the “negative impact” of this form of gambling.

According to the Head of Knowledge and Information for the Gambling Information Resource Office (GIRO), Tony Phillips, gambling becomes problematic if “it causes harm to yourself or to your family

“Where you live will affect the amount of harm you experience,” he says, “Factors such as income and accessibility to products, will most likely determine the types of harm associated.

“Products that are most associated with harm are pokies”.

The eight towns in Casey are home to 898 pokie machines, which is an average of 112.25 machines in each area.

Research from gambling expert Dr Charles Livingstone reports that: “we need a combination of both state and federal action to make sure that the most efficient harm minimisation measures are introduced.”

Mr Tyler refers to research undertaken by Dr Livingstone and says that the convenience of location of pokies does have a role influencing a person to gamble.

According to the Electronic Gaming Machine Strategy (2015-2020), the City of Casey council aims to provide a balanced assessment of how council considers current and any new introduction of electronic gaming machines in the community.

Similarly, the nearby, Cardinia Shire Council released a Responsible Gaming Policy for 2005-2009 which has similar goals for the regulation electronic gaming machines.

Brooke Tempelton, the Principal Strategic Planner for the Cardinia Council says that the work that came out of the attempted policy adjustment was new policy frameworks to guide decision making for the council in regards to gaming machines.

“There was definitely a gap and the community to provide more guidance in relation to applications that were made for gaming machines; where they should and shouldn’t be located; encouraging venues to encourage carrying on other activities”, says Ms Tempelton.

The Cardinia Council is now working the policy guidelines from 2005-2009 into their planning schemes going forward.

For the 2015/2016 financial year, it was reported by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, that total expenditure on pokies use in the City of Casey was $124,817,967.33.

This amount from 13 pokies operating venues compared to the Cardinia Shire’s $25,041,008.45 and six venues shows a sizeable difference and potential problem within the Casey region.

Casey Council’s CEO Mike Tyler believes the amount of pokies in his jurisdiction isn’t to be considered as a risk.

“Individuals who are identified as problem gamblers represent only a small portion of the community,” Mr Tyler says.

According to Mr. Philips from GIRO the concern is the total number of people gambling has dropped a little but the amount of times they’re gambling has gone up.

“This is likely to mean that these people are incurring more harm – it’s deeper,” he says.

The Gambling and Health Report from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation in 2014 reported that 86 per cent of problem gamblers bet in local pubs.

“High levels of access tend to lead to greater amounts of problems,” Mr Philips says.

“We (GIRO) support ways of winding back access to some degree, particularly access in communities where there’s levels of vulnerability”.

In the Casey area, pokie-free venues substitute the presence pf pokies with unofficial, organised activities.

The Central Hotel in Beaconsfield is one of the only pokie-free venues within a 15 kilometre radius of neighbouring pokie-free venues.