The proliferation of poker machines, or pokies, is a uniquely Australian phenomenon, and not one we should be proud of.
Although the machines are available in countless countries, Australia has a higher rate of pokie machines per person than anywhere else on the planet, excluding the small casino-tourism dedicated nations like Monaco and Macau.
According to statistics from 2015, there are just under 200000 pokies in the country, more than the population of Geelong.
Almost half, or 95000, of the machines are in NSW, which holds the shameful statistic of being second only to Nevada (home of Las Vegas) as the second most gambling machine packed state on the planet.
Victoria, thankfully has far fewer pokie machines than our northern neighbours, but the 27372 machines operating in the state still do far too much damage.
In our community, the 329 pokie machines installed in the Greater Shepparton Council area took a massive $31million in one year according to recent statistics from 2015-16.
Just one of those machines took on an incredible $95508 in 12 months, which is higher than the average Aussie’s annual pay.
Proponents for pokies will point out a lot of the money flows back into the community, but it also comes with a large amount of damage.
A lot of the money taken by the machines come from people who are not just having a flutter on the pokies at the pub.
The money is flowing from the pockets of problem gamblers, who cannot resist the luring appeal of the bright lights and the promise of a big win.
Yesterday’s decision to cap the number of pokies should be cautiously welcomed.
Limiting the spread of the machines is a good thing, but a truly brave government would be going one further and cut the numbers of machines across the state.
Such a move would be difficult and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard got a tough lesson in politics when the powerful vested interests in the gaming industry played hard against her government’s move to limit the power of the pokies.
State governments have become hooked on the easy revenue which comes from pokie machines and that makes true progress in limiting the numbers of pokies a tough sell.