In Darebin, poker machine operators and venues are standing up to help curb problem gambling rates by donating money to treatment programs for compulsive gamblers. The scheme has the potential to truly benefit the community. The only problem is that only two pokie clubs have taken part.

According to the Melbourne Times’ Weekly Review, pokie clubs were previously required to pay higher differential tax rates, which helped to fund problem gambling programs. When this tax scheme was band, problem gambling programs lost out on valuable funding – and Darebin City Council decided to compensate by requesting that pokie club owners donate money to these programs instead.

Darebin’s City Council runs a problem gambling program that costs $288 000 to operate on a yearly basis. This year, the program will only receive $3000 in pokie funding because only two clubs have decided to take part in the scheme. The clubs that have volunteered are: Fairfield and Alphington RSL and Darebin RSL.

Darebin Mayor Gaetano Greco notes that clubs were not previously opposed to paying higher differential rates, so it is perplexing that they would not offer up donations after the tax regulations were changed. Mr Greco is disappointed that so few venues have chosen to help out. Mark Zinsak, chairman of the Victorian InterChurch Gambling Taskforce, states that it is not surprising that club owners would not donate to the scheme.

“We’ve seen before through club community benefit statements that the measures taken to reduce problem gambling is extremely limited,” says Mr Zirnsak. “It’s very rare for a venue to do anything other than what the law requires.” Darebin has one of the highest rates of pokie spending in the state. In 2012, residents spending $82.3 million on poker machines.

Although the majority of that spending is from casual gamblers, it is important that gaming industry professionals in the area work to reduce spending from compulsive players.