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Brimbank council cracks down on pokies

Fri, May 24, 8:53am by Staff Writer

Brimbank has become the latest Victorian council to crack down on poker machines after a state topping $139.5 million was lost to the pokies in the municipality last financial year, The Age reports.

Under the new policy, the council will charge clubs that operate poker machines on council land commercial rates instead of peppercorn rent when their leases are up for review.

The affected clubs – St Albans Sports Club and Green Gully Soccer Club – would be eligible for discounts of up to 80 per cent on the market rent if they introduced gambling harm-minimisation measures.

These lease conditions, which would be determined on a case by case basis, could include operating hours, pokies numbers, loyalty schemes, venue design, tobacco provision, gambling types and maximum $1 bets.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform said Brimbank’s new policy was one of the strongest in the state and could set a precedent for councils across Australia.

However Brimbank does not go as far as Darebin Council, which bans groups that operate a pokies venue from using council property, including sporting grounds and refuses to give them financial assistance.

Brimbank mayor Lucinda Congreve said the council recognised that sporting clubs delivered significant social benefits to the community and it genuinely valued this contribution.

“This policy allows us to work in partnership with those venues that do have electronic gaming machines to identify and implement measures that reduce gambling harm.”

Cr Congreve said it was unacceptable the municipality continued to experience the highest pokies losses in Victoria, particularly given it was home to some of Melbourne’s most disadvantaged communities.

An extraordinary $1.4 billion has been lost on poker machines in Brimbank in the past 10 years.

Alliance for Gambling Reform director Tim Costello said for too long councils had just renewed long term peppercorn leases for pokies clubs on council land without conditions.

“Pokies on council land is a fraught issue but I welcome the new Brimbank policy,” he said.

Councils do not have the power to regulate the number, location or operation of poker machines, which were introduced to Victoria in 1992.

However Brimbank council will lobby the state government to reduce the number of pokies in the municipality, including the introduction of a “sinking cap” which would mean that as pokies are removed from one venue, they would not be replaced in another venue.

There are 953 poker machines in Brimbank – the maximum allowable under state government regulations.

Darebin takes RSL to Supreme Court

Darebin Council in Victoria is taking its battle against more poker machines in the Shire to the Supreme Court.

The Age reports that Darebin Council Mayor Susan Rennie was extremely disappointed in a decision made by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal that supported Darebin RSL Club’s bid for an extra 15 pokies machines despite opposition from the community.

The council voted to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court at a confidential meeting on Monday night.

Cr Rennie said people lost $82 million to gambling on the pokies in the City of Darebin every year and it was a major driver of household debt and family breakdown and contributed to family violence.

“Darebin will not stand idly by and accept this,” she said.

The VCAT decision said the tribunal was satisfied there would be “no net detriment to the wellbeing of the community of Darebin” as a result of the extra 15 pokie machines, which would bring the total number of machines at the club to 80.

However, it refused to allow the club to operate for an extra 12 hours a week – with five of those hours being after 1am – saying it was “well established” that operating hours after 1am were a risk for problem gambling.

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