The gambling industry in the state of Victoria continues to flourish as data from the state government reveals that pokie machine operators made a combined total of A$2.6 billion in the last 12 months, which was an increase of A$43 million when compared to the same period last year.

Clubs and pubs in Victoria are authorized to offer pokie machines to their patrons after obtaining a license and a number of these establishments have appeared to have profited significantly by placing pokie machines in disadvantaged areas where the average spending per gambler was around A$1,000 each year.

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The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation stated that disadvantaged regions such as Whittlesea, Dandenong and Geelong were spending over A$100 million each year on pokie machines. The Victorian government is concerned that problem gamblers in these disadvantaged areas are being exploited by pokie machine operators who realize their weaknesses and look to take advantage by cleverly increasing the number of pokie machines in these areas.

In a statement, Charles Livingstone, a public health expert at Monash University said “We’ve known for many years that the most disadvantaged areas have the most pokies and the highest losses. Further proof is provided by this year’s data. Unfortunately, it looks like Victoria’s most disadvantaged people are being exploited by pokie operators to fuel this.”

Livingstone wants Marlene Kairouz, the Minister for Gaming Regulation to make it her number one priority to address this issue and reduce the number of pokie machines in the poorest suburbs and disadvantaged areas. Livingstone believes that Kairouz first step should be to give these disadvantaged communities a bigger voice, introduce more reforms to pokie machine operators and limit the number of pokie machines in these disadvantaged communities.

Kairouz responded to the data released by the state government and the issue of problem gambling by stating that she recognized that problem gambling tainted the Victorian community and realized that it is causing significant harm to problem gamblers and the most disadvantaged communities in the state.  She confirmed that one of her key priorities going forward would be to address this particular issue and reduce the impact of problem gambling in Victoria.

The Victorian government is expected to invest up to A$148 million during the next 4 years to fund the state’s YourPlay scheme and problem gambling organizations who will look to help problem gamblers in these stressed out regions.