By Jackson Russell
City of Whittlesea councillors were united at last Tuesday’s council meeting on calls for gaming machine reform throughout the municipality.
Cr Caz Monteleone called for council to declare its community is facing a poker machine emergency and call for the State Government to urgently undertake pokies reform.
It also called for council to write to the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation to request a community forum be established to tackle the epidemic.
Cr Kris Pavlidis amended the motion, including continued advocacy to the State Government, raising ongoing awareness and education sessions, continued partnership with local organisations and continued advocacy for language specific resources for culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
Cr Monteleone said council knew pokies were a big problem in the City of Whittlesea.
“I ask that we write to the State Government and tell them the hard truth that we don’t want this to continue,” he said.
“This is a real issue and it’s as bad as family violence or any other issue facing our community.
“Last year alone, loses increased by $1.4 million. We’re not going to wait five years to review our strategy – we need to send a message to the government now.”
Cr Pavlidis said a council social impact study revealed people were taking their own lives due to financial problems caused by gambling addiction.
“This scourge is not going away and needs proactive, educated responses. We need to look for opportunities to raise awareness of the harmful impacts,” she said.
“It’s not about prohibition, it’s about regulating access to gaming machines.”
Cr Tom Joseph said council needed to look beyond pokies.
“Anyone with a phone in their hand can bet on cricket, footy or whatever they want. It’s invisible but threatening to become a much more serious issue,” he said.
By Jackson Russell