- »Ballarat Mayor Challenges Pokies Approval Process
Ballarat Mayor Challenges Pokies Approval Process
The mayor of a regional Victorian town said local councils have no influence over the spread of machines in their local government areas, in light of a recent application for eight new machines in the town.
ABC News reports that an application for eight new gaming machines at the Robin Hood Hotel in Ballarat would take the total number of poker machines in the city to 645, below the state-legislated cap of 663.
Ballarat mayor Daniel Moloney said the new gaming machines receiving approval from the state government is a “fait accompli”.
The council is reviewing its policy on pokies, but he said a planned submission to the Victorian commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation over the Robin Hood Hotel application would have little impact.
“A resolution to make a submission was for us to note our general displeasure to the state government,” Cr Moloney said.
“Unfortunately, councils these days don’t get much of a say and we have to live with it.
“Cr Mark Harris made a point that pokies take as much out of our city as rates do, about $56 million in rates, about $50 million in pokies.
“That’s disgraceful. Rates at least buy you 80-odd different services, pokies buy you not much at all.”
The Robin Hood Hotel application has spurred the City of Ballarat Council to review its Gaming Machine Community Policy from 2011.
In a report to council, officers noted that “the number of gaming machines and expenditure per adult is higher than in other regional Victorian municipalities and significantly higher than the state average.”
“The City of Ballarat is concerned by the prevalence and accessibility of electronic gaming machines in the Ballarat area and their potential harmful impacts,” the report states.
“The estimated losses on poker machines incurred by gamblers in Ballarat, as a percentage of gross individual income is 12.1 per cent, the 11th highest percentage in local government areas across Victoria.
“Despite the perception that gaming venues contribute back to communities through gifts, donations, sponsorships, volunteer expenses and veteran support, only 3.1 per cent of the total losses on pokies machines in Ballarat in 2018/19 were given back through community benefits.”
Top End pokies plan shunned
As pokies continue to be a divisive political and community issue, a Northern Territory RSL club scrapped plans for poker machines as part of its revamp.
The Darwin RSL’s rebuild on the Darwin Esplanade pledged not to increase its number of poker machines.
Darwin RSL branch president Stephen Gloster said that the RSL were prepared to scrap pokies from their expansion proposal in a bid to make the venue more “family friendly”, but confirmed that all pokies had been removed from their proposal.
“This site is unique in Australia,” he said.
“It’s where they fired the first shots at the Bombing of Darwin.
“There were a lot of people in the Harbour and it’s the only place where there was a battle in Australia.
Geelong pokies losses on the rise
Regional pokies losses are not confined to Ballarat, with the latest gambling figures revealing that Geelong residents lost more than $4 million to gaming machines in just a matter of days in late 2020.
When pokies were reopened from November 9 after the coronavirus lockdown, Geelong’s 1346 machines swallowed $4.23 million by the end of the month.
It was the fifth largest loss of Victoria’s 57 local government areas with electronic gaming machines.