Greens to push ahead with anti-gambling campaign

Michelle Slater

Greens candidate for Eastern Victoria Tom Cummings will forge ahead with his anti-gambling campaign despite a push from Victoria’s peak pokies body to not vote Green.

Community Clubs Victoria issued a statement on the weekend urging its 600,000 members to “vote prudently” in the November state election by choosing a party that supported the gaming industry.

The statement said clubs would not specifically tell members which party or candidate to support but would provide them with information prior to casting their vote.

Mr Cummings said he was disappointed the statement was issued on the eve of Gambling Harm Awareness Week as the Greens unveiled their pokies policy this week.

“They’re telling their members to vote Labor or Liberal – anyone but the Greens – but we won’t be intimidated,” Mr Cummings said.

The candidate is a former pokies addict and is campaigning rigorously for gaming reform.

“The peak body is more focussed on protecting poker machines than the people it represents,” Mr Cummings said.

“This really shows they are keen to influence the result [of the election] by telling members to vote in favour of poker machines.”

He said pokies harm hit hard in regional communities and accused the gaming lobby of targeting vulnerable communities.

Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation data earlier this year revealed

that Latrobe City Council was the fourth highest local government area in regional Victoria for gaming losses.

Mr Cummings said this was “not a great achievement” for the region.

“There are towns across eastern Victoria that have been targeted by this industry, towns going through hardship and transition that have their own challenges,” Mr Cummings said.

“These town often have five or six pokies venues taking more than people can afford. These areas need a plan for the future. They need options for entertainment, industry and employment.

“They don’t need pokies to take away the money they have worked so hard to earn.”

CCV President Leon Wiegard said community clubs were fed-up with various interest groups continually mispresenting the facts and not recognising the massive contribution that clubs made to their local communities.

“The mobilisation campaign will definitely impact the results in some lower house seats but it is in the upper house where the clubs’ vote could significantly impact the balance of power post the election,” he said.

He said he feared that the anti-gambling platforms of the Greens and Green-affiliated independents would make community clubs unviable.

Mr Wiegard said clubs employed 20,000 staff, of which 30 per cent were in regional Victoria, and made social contributions of more than $1 billion a year.