GAMBLERS lost more than $33 million on south-west poker machines last financial year with a number of new venues winning big.
Hamilton’s Grand Central Hotel collected the region’s biggest slice of pokies revenue with $3.8 million fed through its machines, followed by Warrnambool’s Macs Hotel on $3.6 million and Warrnambool Bowls Club on $3.2 million.
The $33 million figure for 2013-14 represents a 77 per cent increase in two years compared to the 2011-12 financial year when gamblers lost $18.6 million.
Established gambling venues at Warrnambool Bowls Club, the Whalers Hotel and Warrnambool Football Club lost revenue, while pokies newcomers Flying Horse and Rafferty’s Tavern stepped up the pace.
However, City Memorial Bowls Club, Mac’s Hotel and Warrnambool RSL managed to fend off new competition, maintaining their share of the market.
The latest figures mean gamblers in the south-west are losing $90,000 a day on poker machines, according to Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation data.
Former Warrnambool mayor Jacinta Ermacora expressed her concern about the growth of the pokies industry during her time as the city’s leader.
She said while poker machines had been a source of revenue for sporting clubs, there has been serious consequences to the community since the form of gambling was legalised in 1992.
“The impact poker machines has had on our pubs has been disappointing,” Cr Ermacora said.
“Some pubs have closed down, others have been demolished, which is sad because they’re cultural institutions.
“Now we have only three pubs left in the city without pokies — the Victoria, the Warrnambool and the Royal.”
Cr Peter Hulin has also expressed his opposition to the growth of pokies in the south- west, claiming the machines had a negative impact on businesses and families.
“Personally, I believe the city’s business sector started to decline when pokies were introduced and now the results are plain to see,” Cr Hulin said.
“Families have also been really hurt by them. They’re like a hideous disease.”
The implementation of poker machines at both east and west Warrnambool created controversy at the time, yet proprietors were successful in both instances.
Warrnambool City Council lost its fight to stop eight electronic gaming machines from being installed at the Flying Horse Bar and Brewery in December 2012.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruled in favour of the planning permit application, which had been refused by a majority council vote.
Another controversial application was made two years ago by Rafferty’s Tavern for 19 pokies and refused by the city council, but was later successful at VCAT.