10% of Australians say that gambling has been a source of problems in their families, a special Morgan telephone poll of 676 people nation-wide has found.

And a majority of Australians (58%) think local councils “should have control” over the planning, licensing and operating hours of poker machine venues. The figure was even higher in Victoria, where 69% of respondents said councils should be given the power to reject machines.

Australians are the world’s biggest gamblers in per capita terms, largely due to the proliferation of more than 200,000 poker machines across every state except Western Australia.

While Labor state governments are addicted to the revenue, councils are emerging as the strongest political force against poker machines. The Bracks government was deluged with 110 submissions to its Gaming Licences Review, including a very strong attack from 34 different Victorian councils, many of which now face the ignominy of seeing their residents spend more at the pokies than in local rates.

Our little start-up party People Power will be running more than ten current or former councillors as candidates in the Victorian election, many of whom feel strongly about the damage pokies have done to their communities through the $2.5 billion in annual losses, which generate about $1 billion in revenue for the Bracks government.

“Australians want their local council to have control over poker machine venues,” Gary Morgan said. “Majorities in all states except NSW (47%), think local councils should be able to declare their community free of poker machines. Similarly, majorities in all states except WA (46%) think local councils should have control over the planning and licensing of poker machine venues, as well as the operating hours.”

“Of concern is the large number of Australians (1.635 million) who say someone in their family has been affected by gambling related problems and the 1.6 million who say they ‘sometimes gamble more than they should’.”

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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