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The Pokies Play You - Poker Machines are Playing Us all

The Pokies Play You - Poker Machines are Playing Us all


About gambling

Gambling affects individuals, families and our wider community.

Losses to electronic gambling machines (‘pokies’ or EGMs) in Greater Dandenong reached $119 million in 2015/16 – the highest level of losses per adult in Victoria.
Since their introduction in Victoria, over $2.7 billion has been lost to pokies in this municipality - equivalent to $53,000 per household.
For many families and households in Greater Dandenong, the impacts of such gambling losses include in financial pressures, family conflict and violence, legal problems, unemployment and homelessness.
Information is presented here about the extent and impact of gambling in Greater Dandenong, coupled with an outline of Council’s response to gambling.

The information presented here includes a brief account of the recent developments in the gambling industry within Victoria and Greater Dandenong, as well as the City of Greater Dandenong’s response to gambling.

Free, confidential advice and assistance in relation to gambling problems is available from Gamblers Help on 1800 858 858.

Gambling losses
Gambling machines
Social, financial and economic effects of gambling
City of Greater Dandenong Electronic Gambling Policy
The Alliance for Gambling Reform
Assistance for people with gambling-related problems
Want to get involved
Further information and websites

Gambling losses

$118 million was lost to pokies in Greater Dandenong last year - equal to $325,000 a day.

In 2015-16, $119 million was lost to pokies in the 15 gaming venues in Greater Dandenong - equivalent to $976 per adult, and the highest rate of losses to pokies per adult in Melbourne. Each day, over $325,000 is lost to pokies in this municipality.

Since the introduction of pokies in Victoria in 1992-93, over $2.7 billion (2016 dollars) has been lost in Greater Dandenong alone - the equivalent of $53,000 per household.

The highest gambling losses are generally experienced by the least affluent communities in Victoria. In 2015-16, losses to pokies in Boroondara - the wealthiest locality in Victoria - stood at $142 per adult. By contrast, average losses incurred by residents of Greater Dandenong - the least affluent locality in metropolitan Melbourne – were six times higher, at $976 per adult.

Thus the residents of a community with one of the highest levels of gaming losses are also among the least able to bear such financial losses.

In addition to EGM losses, an estimated $147 million is lost by residents each year to other legal forms of gambling, bringing total annual losses to $266 million – equivalent to $2,183 per adult. Total annual gambling losses represent approximately 9% of all incomes in Greater Dandenong, compared with 0.7% of losses in Boroondara.


Gambling machines

There are 958 pokies in Greater Dandenong – the second highest number in Victoria.

This represents 7.9 pokies per 1,000 adults – substantially more than the Victorian figure of 5.3 per 1,000 adults.

Caps, or limits, upon the number of pokies were imposed by the Victorian Government in a selection of municipalities in 2001 including Greater Dandenong. Since then, the caps have been extended to other Victorian municipalities. The cap on pokie numbers in Greater Dandenong currently stands at 989 – 31 more than the current number of EGMs.


Social, financial and economic effects of gambling

Effects of gambling include family violence, personal distress, poverty, unemployment, crime and homelessness.

Most gambling-related problems arise when a person loses more than they, or their household, can comfortably afford. The resulting financial hardship may have impacts on personal, social, family and employment circumstances.

Australian research indicates that between 2 and 4 percent of adults have a serious gambling problem, leading to persistent losses which contribute to family, work, personal and other problems.

In addition, many gamblers experience sustained losses which may not lead to a crisis but cause them and their families to endure a poorer standard of living and quality of life.

Representatives of the gambling industry point to the employment benefits of pokies, claiming that gambling provides employment to areas where the venues are situated. However, Australian research shows that pokies actually reduce overall employment, as gambling losses divert funds from other areas of expenditure, resulting in job losses in the entertainment, food, clothing and other industries, which exceed employment opportunities generated in gaming venues.


City of Greater Dandenong's Electronic Gambling Policy

Council policy seeks to inform residents about the effects of gambling, and advocate for reforms to reduce its impact upon the community.

The City of Greater Dandenong Council has adopted the Electronic Gaming Policy 2014. This policy includes the following components:

  • Research about the effects of gambling, and monitoring of local trends
  • Publicity to raise awareness of the issue and of sources of support
  • Advocacy for reforms to the regulation of gambling
  • Principles to guide Council’s responses to applications for gambling venues or machines.

In response to community need, and in accord with its Electronic Gaming Policy 2014, Council has undertaken the following advocacy activities:

  • Supporting the Alliance for Gambling Reform, a national organisation in which councils, community groups and residents have united to advocate for gambling reform
  • Promoting the advocacy campaigns of the Alliance for Gambling Reform through the Council website, social media, ‘The City’ magazine and the Harmony Square big screen.
  • Presenting submissions to government reviews of the gambling industry.

Providing detailed information about the impact of pokies on Council’s website

Download Greater Dandenong Gambling Policy


 The Alliance for Gambling Reform

As an active member of the Alliance, Council strongly supports its campaigns for gambling reform.
Greater Dandenong Council has joined with other Victorian councils, the Salvation Army, Brotherhood of St. Laurence, and the Inter-Church Taskforce on Gambling and respected gambling reformer Tim Costello to become members of the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

The Alliance is a national organisation where councils, community groups and residents have united to advocate for gambling reform.

Reforms sought by the Alliance include:

  • Changes to the design of pokies to make them less deceptive and addictive.
  • Cessation of donations by the gambling industry to state and federal politicians.
  • A reduction in the dependency of AFL clubs on pokies as a source of revenue.
  • Prohibition of sports betting advertising on television during G-rated viewing times.
  • $1 maximum bets, coupled with a maximum limit upon pokies losses of $120 per hour.
  • Wider role for councils and local communities in deciding gambling applications.

The Alliance is engaged in a number of campaigns to inform the public about the addictive nature of gambling, its effects upon the community and to promote gambling reform, including:

  • Alterations in the design of pokies to remove their deceptive and addictive features. This campaign includes:
    • Designed to Create Addiction: a short video created by the Alliance to expose the addictive nature of pokies. 
    • Ka-Ching: a documentary that explores the design of pokies, showing how they deceive gamblers and promote addiction.
  • A campaign to discourage all politicians from accepting donations from the gambling industry.
  • AFL Petition: a petition launched by the Alliance to encourage the AFL to support reform of the gambling industry and endorse a ban on advertising by online gambling agencies during AFL games.
  • Lobbying governments to curb sports betting, particularly during G-rated television viewing times.
  • Advocacy for legislative reform to reduce the maximum bet limit on pokies to $1 and maximum losses to $120 per hour.
  • Efforts to establish a Federal parliamentary inquiry into gambling reform.

For more information, or to support, join or volunteer with the Alliance, visit its website at


 Assistance for people with gambling-related problems

Assistance for people experiencing problem gambling and their families is available from Gambler’s Help, which provides counselling, financial counselling and community education throughout Victoria:

  • For 24 hour, 7 day support and information, call Gambler’s Help Telephone Counselling Services - free call on 1800 858 858.
  • Locally, residents can contact Gambler’s Help Southern on 9575 5353 Monday to Friday, from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm.
  • Online information is available at including advice about services, self-help resources, materials for families and friends, personal stories, newsletters, statistics and research and information in community languages.


Want to get involved?

You can be involved in helping to achieve gambling reform.

Some suggestions about how you may get involved include:

  • Speak to your friends, family and colleagues about the extent of gambling and its effects upon individuals and families.
  • Share information about the extent and impact of gambling on Facebook and other social media.
  • Visit the Alliance for Gambling Reform website, at to find out about its campaign for gambling reform. 
  • Participate in petitions to State and Federal governments seeking gambling reform, or offer to volunteer with the Alliance. 
  • Consider forming or joining a community group with neighbours and friends, to speak out against the effects of gambling in your community. In other localities throughout Victoria, community groups have successfully expressed their concerns about rising gambling losses and their effects upon communities through press releases to local newspapers, protests and other activities.

 Further information 

Statistics about gambling losses and pokie numbers, in each Victorian municipality are available here.
Evidence about the distribution and growth of losses to pokies, the nature of gambling-related problems and other issues.

Download 'Gambling Related Issues' document (PDF - 952KB)

Information about the basis for decisions on appeals of Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation decisions to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) is presented in the Council report below:
Download 'Review of VCAT decisions regarding Electronic Gambling Machines (EGM) Gambling Applications' document (PDF - 196KB)

The following sites contain useful information and research about gambling:

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation
Oversees all legal gambling within Victoria (including pokies), commissions research about gambling and its social and economic effects, and reports gambling trends to the government and community.

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation
Provides extensive information about sources of advice and support for people experiencing gambling-related problems, as well as data and other information about the gambling industry.