Since being legalised in 1992 Electronic Gaming Machines (also known as EGMs or, more commonly, ‘pokies’) have become ubiquitous, with a total of 530 venues across Victoria now offering access to this form of gambling. In 2015/16, more than $2.6 billion was lost in Victoria by users of pokies. The use of pokies within a community is linked to a range of negative social and economic outcomes that impact the welfare of individual users, their families, and the broader communities in which they live. These negative impacts are accentuated by the fact that poker machine venues tend to be clustered close to lower socio-economic status communities, with socio-economically disadvantaged groups overrepresented among total EGM users.
SGS recently completed a Social and Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) relating to an application for the introduction of 40 pokies at the Commercial Hotel in South Morang. The Commercial Hotel currently represents the only remaining pub within the urbanised area of the Whittlesea LGA (with a resident population of around 200,000) that does not presently offer pokies. For this and a range of other reasons, a large number of local stakeholder groups objected to the application. The application described a number of design and implementation features intended to minimise the likelihood that these machines would contribute to the growth of problem gambling among the population of the region, while also highlighting a range of economic and social benefits associated with their introduction. However, SGS’ independent analysis found that any benefits were substantially outweighed by a range of costs the introduction of EGMs was likely to impose on the economy and community of South Morang and the surrounding region.
SGS presented these findings at the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) hearing, as part of Council’s submission against the application.
This evidence contributed to the VCGLR making a recommendation that the application for pokies at the Commercial Hotel be refused. Click here for a full copy of the Commission’s decision and reasons for the decision.