LOSSES at Warrnambool’s electronic gaming machines has plateaued despite more operators than ever before.
Punters lost more than $17.2 million at the pokies in Warrnambool last year — a fraction down on similar 2012 figures. The drop is a far cry from 2008-2009 and 2010 when the pokies raked in close to $20 million.
The latest data from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) reflect only what punters lost — not overall spending.
Each machine earned an average of $73,504 compared to $84,007 in 2012.
There are 234 machines plugged in at venues around the city — the maximum number allowed under a long-standing state government cap.
Figures show November was the busiest month with machines devouring close to $1.6 million. Macs Hotel’s machines made the most in the second half of last year, taking $1,859,684 from punters, followed closely by the Warrnambool Bowls Club, which took in $1,758,564.
In 2012 Warrnambool City Council lost fights against pokies expansions at Rafferty’s Tavern and the Flying Horse Bar and Brewery. Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh summed up council’s position as walking a fine line.
“It’s a balancing act,” Cr Neoh said.
He said council would continue to back a state government limit on the number of machines designed to stop them mushrooming at venues around country Victoria.
“These are businesses who are bringing tourists into the city,” Cr Neoh said.
Asked about his personal view of pokies, Cr Neoh said he supported the cap to “mitigate” the industry.
Pubs and clubs with machines and licences are able to trade or auction the machines among themselves.
“You have to put it into the context of the TABS, and online betting — people always single out electronic gaming machines when there’s other forms of gambling.”
Cr Neoh said many residents in West Warrnambool and Dennington had supported the Rafferty’s Tavern in expanding into gaming.
Several operators in Warrnambool told The Standard pokie numbers were generally down across the state but could not say what was causing the trend.
Flying Horse Bar and Brewery general manager Matthew Monk said “clearly across the state there’s a decline because of the government measures brought in for responsible gambling”.
While the venue has only had its machines operating since May, Mr Monk said the bar was happy to move into gaming.
“It’s ticked over well and done what we expected it to, which is to give patrons a flutter.”
Whalers Hotel Owner Gary Walsh agreed there was a general trend against gaming, but couldn’t say what the cause was.