By Alesha Capone
More than $45 million has been saved in Wyndham while poker machines have been shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
Gaming venues in Greater Melbourne have been closed since March 23 in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
According to the Alliance, since the closure, almost $300,000 per day has been saved from being spent on Wyndham’s poker machines.
The Alliance calculated the savings by looking at the average daily spend on pokies in Wyndham for this financial year before the March 23 lockdown, and then calculated that by the number of days from then to now.
A total of $5.62 million was spent on Wyndham’s 903 poker machines between March 1 and March 23 this year (compared to $8.96 million during March last year).
Wyndham mayor Josh Gilligan said it stood to reason that at least some of the $45 million saved in poker machine losses would have been spent locally, boosting the economy at a time when it is needed most.
“These extraordinary savings to the people of Wyndham in just over four months demonstrates how much poker machines are draining our local economy,” Cr Gilligan said.
“Spending money on poker machines can leave people without the means to pay essential bills but it also takes away from money that could be spent in our community.
“Poker machines cause the majority of gambling harm in our community and they are designed to addict people.”
Cr Gilligan said that the council was committed minimising the harm caused by poker machines, through its Gambling and Harm Minimisation Policy and supporting action plan.
Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate Tim Costello said Australians lost $25 billion to gambling last year.
“Gambling is also known to increase during economic crises. This is a major concern right now,” Rev Costello said.
“But we have experienced a silver lining in all this – the shutdown of poker machines has undoubtedly improved lives for many local people for the better, and perhaps even saved lives.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing issues with gambling, reach out to Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858 or at gamblershelp.com.au.