GAMBLERS on the Mornington Peninsula are again losing big at the pokies, with spending going up compared to lockdown figures.
In the two months of December 2021 and January 2022 data published by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission showed spending on gaming machines in Mornington Peninsula Shire topped $15.3 million.
In January punters on the peninsula spent $7.86m, compared to July, when they put $5.1m through the pokies.
Some of the biggest spending between July 2021 and December 2021 was at the Rosebud Hotel ($3.24m), with Steeples in Mornington coming behind by a length at $2.7m.
The figures are high, given that the peninsula has just 808 machines spread over 17 venues, out of a 1239 poker machine entitlement.
Alliance for Gambling Reform chief advocate the Rev Tim Costello has called for more harm prevention programs to curb the rise in gambling.
“Harm prevention measures like universal pre-commitment, reduced opening hours and abolishing losses disguised as wins would have a significant impact in reducing these losses and the harm felt in our state,” he said.
“We also need well-resourced educational campaigns aimed at bringing awareness to this ongoing crisis. If we are to successfully reduce the harm being caused by poker machines, we need to bring the community along with us,” he said.
The shire estimates that $49.3m was gambled on the pokies across the shire last year.
Mr Costello said records were broken across the state in December and January, with many municipalities that recorded the highest losses being also some of the most stressed communities in the state.
“Families across Victoria are being shamelessly preyed on by corporations looking to make a quick buck,” he said.
He said the state government’s commitment to holding Crown accountable was a start but did little for the “crisis in the suburbs, in the regions”.
Connect Health Community’s Gambler’s Help Southern service says the unprecedented circumstances of the past two years had combined to create a “perfect storm” of pressure on people struggling with gambling-related issues.
Connect Health Community CEO, Amanda Murphy, said many of those hit by the losses experienced multiple pressures.
“We know many in our community have experienced job losses and financial pressure over the past two years, creating or exacerbating strain for many households and putting enormous additional burden on people,” she said.
“We also know social isolation is a key trigger for many to engage in gambling as they seek some kind of connection after months of lockdown isolation.
“Together, the financial and social impacts of COVID on our community have contributed to a perfect storm for those vulnerable and alone.”
Ms Murphy said increased connection was key to helping protect communities from greater harm caused by gambling.
“One thing we can do as a community is reach out to our friends and family if we have concerns about their wellbeing. Acknowledging a struggle with gambling or living with someone struggling with gambling can be incredibly challenging, but support is available,” she said.
“Gambler’s Help Southern offers free, confidential support across Melbourne’s south-east including the Mornington Peninsula to anyone experiencing gambling related harm – whether it is the person who is gambling or their family member.”