Pokie losses hit $44m

Pokie losses in Latrobe increased by $1.1 million in the past financial year, making it the fourth highest local government area in regional Victoria for gaming losses behind Greater Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.

According to the latest figures released by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, Latrobe City council area pokie players lost $44.67 million in 2017-18.

The data shows that although poker machine spends in the area jumped by 2.5 per cent from 2016-17, it was still below the statewide figure of 3.29 per cent.

Since 2010, pokies losses in Latrobe decreased by about $3 million although the number of gaming machines remained the same at 522.

According to the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, a possible reason for the decrease was that machine numbers had decreased at hotel venues but increased at club venues.

"Player losses per machine at club venues are generally lower than hotel venues," a VRGF spokeswoman said.

Gippsland Gamblers Help partnership coordinator Tenille Thorburn said $44 million was a lot of money being taken out of the Latrobe community and put into electronic gaming machines.

"In the Latrobe Valley we have more gaming machines than other local government areas in Gippsland," Ms Thorburn said.

"We know that people who have time, access to money and vulnerability are most at risk of gambling.

"And we know gambling co-exists with other vulnerabilities such as drug and alcohol addiction, crime and family violence concerns."

Ms Thorburn said there was a growing body of evidence about the addictive nature of playing gaming machines as some people were lured by their sensory attractions of bright lights and music.

"The big attraction of pokies are their features that hook you in, like the near-misses and losses disguised at wins," she said.

"Gambling is recognised as an addiction and affects pathways in the brain like other addictive substances."

Ms Thorburn said people hooked on pokies were more likely to suffer harms than from other forms of gambling such as taking a punt on the Melbourne Cup or buying a lotto ticket.

"Our financial counsellors are seeing clients struggling to pay bills because of gaming addictions. There are a lot of resources available for people impacted by gambling," she said.

"One of the biggest barriers we are facing is the need to reduce the shame and stigma associated with gambling. People need to know it's okay to get help."

To view the statistics, visit www.vcglr.vic.gov.au.

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