Gambling Harm

A man with head in hands with poker machines in the background

Gambling Harm in Ballarat

As part of our commitment to support the health and wellbeing of Ballarat residents, we aim to reduce the harmful impact of gambling in our community. 

Gambling has the potential to generate negative social and economic impacts for the player, their family and friends, and the wider community.

Gambling-related harm can include financial loss, relationship breakdown, intimate partner violence, increased prevalence of anxiety and depression, emotional or psychological distress, issues with work or study, criminal activity, reduced health and wellbeing, and suicide. 

Whilst there are many different forms of gambling, a significant source of financial loss and harm in Ballarat comes from Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs), also known as poker machines (“pokies”). 

It is also the form of gambling over which Council has the greatest influence through its statutory roles and decision-making processes. Whilst the state-controlled nature of gambling regulation leaves Council with minimal regulatory influence, the City of Ballarat is committed to reducing the harms that result from gambling where possible.

  • In 2022/23, it is estimated that the Ballarat community lost $149.1 million to legal gambling, and our losses to pokies per day were $176,331. The money lost through pokies in our community last year could have fed 23,575 children for an entire year.

Sports betting and internet gambling are also fast-growing, with participation in these forms of gambling increasing rapidly each year. The advertising and normalisation of sports betting and online gambling- and the community impacts from this- are of significant concern.

The City of Ballarat’s Gambling Harm Minimisation Policy 2022 identifies Council’s position, commitment, responsibilities and approach to minimising gambling-related harm in Ballarat.

Download our Minimising Gambling Harm Position Statement.


We have a commitment to advocacy measures, particularly regarding the systems and laws that control gambling in Victoria, transferring greater control to local government. Council, through its Gambling Harm Minimisation Policy (2022), will actively respond to new EGM applications to minimise the negative impacts of EGM gambling, for the community of Ballarat.  

EGM caps are legal limits on how many gaming machine entitlements are available within specific areas of Victoria, with Ballarat’s cap currently at 663 EGMs. Read more on how we do this through the Gaming Machine Assessment Fact Sheet.

The City of Ballarat is also a member of the Gambling Harm Prevention Taskforce, a group of Ballarat-based professionals working to prevent gambling harm in our community. Follow us on Facebook to find out more.  

Through the Gambling Harm Prevention Taskforce, the City of Ballarat will work towards education and awareness campaigns focusing on reducing the impacts of key target groups.  

Past initiatives saw the City of Ballarat as a partner of the All-In Project, led by Ballarat Community Health. This was a preventive health initiative designed to support Ballarat organisations in implementing actions to reduce the risk of gambling harm in the community.  

The City of Ballarat has also promoted the messages of the Alliance for Gambling Reform who advocate for public health reforms that are evidence-based and community-backed with the sole purpose of reducing and preventing gambling harm.

Gambling in Ballarat 6 Month Pulse Checks

January - June 2023

Total losses equaled $30,524,377 across all gaming machines between January and June 2023. This is a reduction of $3,312,015 from the previous 6 months July-Dec 2022. 

The 6 month personal losses averaged at $223pp per month, which is $37 less than Jan-June 2022, which totaled $260pp per month.  

This data shows that there has been an overall reduction in spending on pokies machines from the Ballarat community. This may have been a result of the increase in financial stress on households due to the increase in the cost of living.  

Gambling Reforms

  • The Victorian government has announced widespread reforms to the electronic gambling industry, including new mandatory pre-commitment limits.  
  • Find out more about the reforms here.

January 2023- June 2023 Losses by Venue


  • Ballarat and District Trotting Club: $2,943,419 (increase of $309,687 from previous 6 months) 
  • Sebastopol Bowling Club: $2,299,135 (reduction of $437,774 from previous 6 months) 
  • North Ballarat Sports Club: $1,916,099 (reduction of $568,543 from previous 6 months) 


  • Ballarat Club Hotel previously named Zagames/Golden Point Hotel: $6,864,822 (reduction of $472,749.32 from previous 6 months) 
  • Blue Bell Hotel: $3,460,984 (reduction of $673,178.63 from previous 6 months) 
  • Craigs Royal Hotel: $3,084,600 (reduction of $294,508.86 from previous 6 months) 

(Source: Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission)

July 2022 - December 2022

In December 2022 we had 7.24 pokies machines per 1000 adults (with 14 venues holding pokies machines).

In the past three years, there was one application to the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission for additional poker machines in this area. The application was unsuccessful. (Robin Hood Hotel- request for 8 additional machines due to underpayment of community contributions), however this was then approved.

In total, $1.58 billion was lost in Victoria at the pokies between 1 July and 31 December 2022, with Ballarat losing $33,836,391.06. 

  • An increase of 11.56% losses between July 2022-December 2022 compared to the previous 6 months (Jan-June 2022).
  • Total loss for 2022 YTD was $63, 974,474.15 which is the highest total recorded for City of Ballarat and an increase of 8.43%% comparing with pre COVID records from 2019
  • July saw the most amount of losses across the 6 months with $5,945,151.42 total losses. 

July 2021 - June 2022 Losses by Venue

  • Ballarat Club Hotel (previously named Zagames/Golden Point Hotel): $ 7,337,571.32  
  • Blue Bell Hotel: $4,134,162.63  
  • Craig’s Royal Hotel: $3,379,108.86  

(Source: Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission) 

June 2022

In 2022 we have 5.7 gaming machines per 1000 people (adjusted based on 2021 Census population and July 2022 no. of EGMs). In 2016 we had an estimated 663 EGMs, 6.52 per person.

This will likely increase after August 2022 when post-August entitlements come online.  

  • March and April saw the highest losses on EGMs ever across Victoria (an increase across the board of approximately 10%).
  • Areas with higher Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) scores have seen less of an impact while those with lower SEIFA scores have seen increased losses.
  • Trend in increased losses is consistent with Ballarat. The previous five months have seen increases in monthly spending when compared to the last five years of losses- looking at Calendar YTD rather than FY.
  • June 2022 is particularly bad when compared with June 2021, with a 63% increase in losses over that time.

July 2021- June 2022 Losses by Venue & Machine

Venus with highest losses

  • Zagames/Golden Point Hotel: $10,767,566.78
  • Craig’s Royal Hotel: $5,293,715.05
  • Blue Bell Hotel: $5,942,460.97

Total losses per machine

  • Craig’s Royal Hotel: $148,561 per machine
  • Blue Bell Hotel: $123,801 per machine
  • Zagames/Golden Point Hotel: $102,548 per machine 

(Source: Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission)

More Information

Where to get help

Local and National Support Groups and Organisations

Gambling is a sensitive topic for many people. If you or someone you know is seeking additional support regarding gambling, please contact one of the services listed below:   

  • Child and Family Services Ballarat- providers of Gambler’s Help services in Ballarat.  
    Address: 115 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat 
    Phone: (03) 5337 3333.    


  • Gambler’s Help- assists those with gambling problems- or family and friends affected by someone else’s gambling- with free and confidential advice, including therapeutic and financial counselling, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  

  • Phone: 1800 858 858.  

  • Website:    

  • Lifeline: Lifeline provides free professional and confidential telephone counselling, support and information services.  

  • Call 13 11 14.   

  • Gamblers Anonymous: support group for people with a gambling problem.  

  • Phone: (03) 9696 6108  

  • Website:

  • National Debt Helpline: support for debt and speak to a financial counsellor. 

  • Phone: 1800 007 007.   

  • Website: