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Record pokies numbers for Portland

PORTLAND’S pokies players have lost $8.6m in the past year, smashing a 14-year record by more than a million dollars.
After lower losses in recent years caused by venues being closed for COVID restrictions, losses returned to pre-pandemic levels of $6.9m for the 2021/22 financial year, and have increased 25% this year.
That $8.6m figure breaks down to $23,675 lost per day, or $541 lost per day for every adult in the shire.
The previous highest year of losses was $7.4m in 2008/09, while 2002/03 was the last time less than $6m was lost on the pokies in the shire.
In that time, there has been no increase in the number of pokies in Portland, with 120 machines, 37 short of the allowable limit.
By far the highest amount of losses was at the Richmond Henty Hotel, where gamblers lost $3.181 million through 32 machines. That was one million more than the year previous, and the most ever lost at the venue.
Punters lost $2.226m at the Portland RSL Memorial Bowling Club, which has 40 machines. That was $594,000 more than the previous year.
At the Gordon Hotel $1.924m was recorded in losses from 23 machines - an increase in losses of $36,000. The Portland Football Netball Cricket Club recorded $1.309m in losses from 25 machines. That was $47,000 more than the previous year.
Portland Salvation Army Corps Captain Peter Stamp said he had seen the impact of gambling losses on many families.
He said with tough times and rising costs, some Salvation Army clients had turned to gambling out of desperation, and ended up losing all of the money they had.
“People are looking for hope, but they’re looking in all the wrong places,” he said.
Mr Stamp said for people on a lower fixed income, relying on Centrelink or welfare payments who don’t have the capacity to earn more, minimum wage and payment increases are not matching rising costs, leaving a hole in their budget.
“Those costs just keep going up, and the only thing some people think they can do to get that extra $50 to cover their rent rise or extra food costs is to try and win it at the pokies.”
“It’s a false hope, because even if they win $100 this week, they lost $5000 last week.”
Of the people Mr Stamp knows of who gamble at the pokies, there is no particular amount they are losing, or limit they set themselves.
“They’ll put through whatever they can spare out of their pay cheque,” he said.
“They don’t have $5000 to blow all in one go, but it might be a few hundred every week or every couple days.
“They’ll keep going until they have got nothing left, until they have to stop.”
Alliance for Gambling Reform chief advocate Tim Costello said the rise in losses was a particularly exaggerated reflection of the general trend, in the face of increasing living expenses.
“Two things that go up in depression and recession - chocolate and gambling,” he said.
“Because the pokies are the most predatory, brilliant psychological games, they reduce your anxiety when you’re in front of them, all your problems disappear for that hour.
“Of course, your problems are much greater when you’re finished playing because you lose so much, but they are mesmerizing.”
Mr Costello called on venues to do more for problem gamblers.
“We always blame the individual and say, ‘gamble responsibly’,” Mr Costello said.
“They know that 62% of their income comes from people doing gambling harm who are addicted, that’s a figure from the productivity commission.”
Last month Premier Daniel Andrews announced what he called “the strongest gambling harm preventions and anti-money laundering measures in Australia”, to be rolled out over the next year.
These include carded gaming that sets a maximum amount of $100 a punter can bet before having to reload the card, down from the current limit of $1000, and all machines in Victoria will also require mandatory pre-commitment limits, starting in Crown Casino by the end of the year.
Another change in mid-2024 will be that gaming venues will not be able to operate between 4am and 10am.

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