Pokies losses increase but more machines on the way
As losses on poker machines in Warragul continue to surge another 20 machines are being installed in the town.
Warragul Sporting and Social Club has won its bid for an extra 20 machines that will take the number at the Victoria St club to 100.
There are already 190 pokies (Electronic Gaming Machines) in Warragul’s three venues – the Sporting and Social Club currently has 80, as does the Warragul Country Club, and the Club Hotel has 30.
The 28 EGMs at the Family Hotel in Drouin bring the total in the shire to 218.
The 20 additional machines for the Sporting and Social Club approved by the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation will boost the number to 238, still short of the State Government imposed cap of 299 for the shire.
Gaming figures just released by the VCGLR reveal that during the six months from last July to December the total amount lost by players of pokies in Baw Baw shire rose to $8.1 million.
This was up almost 14 per cent on the corresponding July-December period in the 2015-2016 financial year.
Player losses in the six months until the end of last December were well over half the $14.66 million lost for the entire 2015-2016 financial year.
That amount represented a 10 per cent increase on the 2014-2015 year when total losses in Baw Baw were $13.29 million.
In its published report stating reasons for approval the extra 20 machines for the Warragul Sporting and Social Club the VCGLR said the shire would still be under the cap on numbers of pokies for the area and it was satisfied there would not be a nett social and economic effect detrimental to the well-being of the Baw Baw community.
It did, however, point out that the additional pokies would increase the density of machines to 6.5 per 1000 adults living in the shire.
That is about 20 per cent higher than the average for regional (non-metropolitan) municipalities of 5.3 per 1000 adults and the State-wide average of 5.6.
But there will be some wins for the district community when the Sporting and Social Club installs the extra EGMs.
The Longwarry Bowls Club, struggling financially when it amalgamated with the Warragul club in 2014, will get a $1.2 million upgrade and a new $25,000 per year community fund, increasing in line with Consumer Price Index (CPI) rises, will be established.
Conditions attached to the VCGLR approval require a $300,000 redevelopment of “hospitality” (clubhouse) facilities at the Longwarry Bowls Club to be substantially completed within three years and a $900,000 project to roof the bowling green to enable all-year play within six years.
The new $25,000 community fund, additional to the $40,000-45,000 the Sporting and Social Club currently provides in donations and kind to local organisations, will be administered by a committee that will include community and Baw Baw Shire representatives.
While the popularity of playing poker machines continues to grow at double-digit percentage rates in Baw Baw shire the latest research available from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation says the machines are the main reason for problem gambling among the range of gambling avenues available.
It states that for those with gambling problems playing pokies was the most common activity, where they spent most money and played more intensely for longer periods.
The Foundation categorises only 0.7 per cent of the State’s adult population as being problem gamblers but another 8.1 per cent are at “moderate or low risk” of having gambling problems.
It identifies a problem gambler as “someone that spends more money or time on gambling than they can afford”.