Council joins calls for urgent reforms to prevent gambling harm in Brimbank

Brimbank City Council supports the Alliance for Gambling Reform’s call for the Victorian Government to urgently enact reforms to prevent gambling harm when poker machines are switched back on.

Last month, Council announced its 19 Point Action Plan for COVID-19 Response and Recovery, which sets out pathways for Council to partner with other levels of government to help our community respond to the health, wellbeing and economic impacts of the pandemic. The Action Plan is seeking investment in a dedicated Community Resilience and Fairness Response Package, which includes responding to the risk of gambling harm when gaming rooms re-open.

Since late March 2020, an estimated $63.3 million has been saved from going into poker machines in Brimbank. It is imperative that Premier Daniel Andrews move now to prevent a potential wave of gambling harm in Victoria.

That’s why Brimbank Council has signed a joint letter to Premier Andrews requesting that gaming venues close between midnight and 10am, joining ten other councils around Victoria in seeking this reform.

Brimbank Mayor Cr Georgina Papafotiou said the COVID-19 shutdown of poker machines in Brimbank has provided unexpected financial reprieve for many households.

‘The shutdown has helped people experiencing gambling harm to take a much-needed break from gambling on poker machines. In a way, easing the financial pressures that many households are experiencing during these stressful times. 

‘We know that gambling harm has an impact on mental health, family violence, homelessness and other social and health issues that we care deeply about in Brimbank.

‘Local businesses are doing it particularly tough right now. We want and need to keep money in our local communities. Every dollar lost to poker machines is money extracted from our local economy.

‘With unemployment at record highs and the general stress around COVID-19, many more people are and will be vulnerable to gambling harm.

‘We must protect our communities from the increased likelihood of gambling harm, and support local communities as they recover from COVID-19. Closing venues at midnight is a simple, yet effective, measure to reduce gambling harm.

‘We urge the Victorian Government to enact this reform for the health and economic benefit of all our communities,’ Cr Papafotiou said.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, applauded Brimbank City Council for recognising the harm poker machines cause in their community and for joining calls for reform.

The Rev Tim Costello said that no level of government is closer to the devastation poker machines cause than the local council representing the people who live with pokies venues throughout their municipality.

‘It’s unfair that local councils have so little say about a business operating in their community that can do so much damage to their residents.

‘Reforms such as closing venues from midnight to 10am will reduce gambling harm in Brimbank. There is nothing positive happening in a poker machine venue in the early hours of the morning.

There is no food being served, no community spirit of catching up over a meal.

‘It is absurd that poker machines are currently allowed on for 20 hours per day throughout Victoria. Public health and addiction experts have been saying this is dangerous for years and it is time changes happened. We can get a silver lining out of COVID-19 if we can see reforms happen in Victoria that will reduce gambling harm. The entire community will benefit from this,’ Rev Costello said.