Millions of dollars in stimulus payments have been fed into Victoria's poker machines, new figures show.
Spending on the state's 27,500 poker machines outside of Crown Casino soared by almost 7 per cent last month, or an extra $14.4 million, as the Federal Government's $900 stimulus cheques washed through the community.
The payments have been a windfall for Victoria's poker-machine giants, Tatts Group, Tabcorp and Woolworths. Combining December and April, when most of the stimulus payments were made, the increase in pokies spending in Victoria was $45 million, or 10 per cent.
The Reverend Tim Costello said poker machine venues had been "advertising furiously" while the stimulus payments were flowing. "What this has stimulated is more marriage breakdowns and lost businesses and crime committed, because when (poker machine) income jumps as dramatically as this, addiction jumps, and that just tears communities apart."
He said the stimulus spending on pokies was a "sad, missed opportunity to create jobs".
Charles Livingstone, of Monash University's department of health science, said he was not surprised some people took their stimulus payments to poker machine venues.
"It highlights that there is always going to be a group of the people in the community who have relatively modest control over their ability to spend money on the pokies," he said.
"The problem we have got is a poker machine system that allows people to spend unlimited amounts of money in a short period of time."
Dr Livingstone is also concerned that recently retrenched workers may blow redundancy payments on poker machines.
Federal Government spokesman Matthew Martyn-Jones said most people had spent their stimulus money appropriately. "The spending choices of individuals are ultimately a matter for them, but we're confident the overwhelming majority of people are using their stimulus payments responsibly.
"The very clear evidence from retailers like Woolworths and Westfield is that the overwhelming majority of people have been spending their stimulus payments on the basics like children's clothing and nappies."
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said the pokies figures were "further proof that the stimulus payments were poorly targeted, and it is sad to see money being wasted in this way". (Credit: Fairfax)
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