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Brimbank Council hopes to reduce gambling harm

Wed, May 29, 8:21am by Staff Writer

Victoria’s Brimbank Council has introduced a radical new policy to minimise gambling harm, the Star Weekly reports.

Under the new policy, the council will charge clubs that operate poker machines on council land commercial rates and will seek limited term leases.

The St Albans Sports Club and Green Gully Soccer Club are the two affected clubs, but both would be eligible for rent discounts of up to 80 per cent if they implement gambling harm-minimisation measures.

Cr Virginia Tachos said the council will continue to lobby for regulatory reform.

“Council acknowledges that many clubs with EGMs also play an important social role – we want to work with current venue operators to reduce gambling harm,” Cr Tachos said.

“We understand that gambling is a legal form of entertainment that is also regulated at both a federal and state level – this council policy focuses on a public health response, reducing the potential harm and risks to our community.”

Brimbank has topped the list of money lost to EGMs for 10 consecutive years, with $1.4 billion lost over the past decade.

In the past financial year,  $139.5 million – or $383,000 a day – was lost on Brimbank’s electronic gaming machines.

Mayor Lucinda Congreve said the high losses were unacceptable.

“It is unacceptable that Brimbank continues to experience the highest electronic gambling machine – or EGM – losses in Victoria particularly so when you consider that we are also home to some of Melbourne’s most disadvantaged communities.

“Through this policy – we will seek to reduce the harms that these losses inflict on our community.”

There are 953 electronic gaming machines in Brimbank – the maximum allowable under state regulations.

Brimbank’s new measures don’t go as far as the Darebin Council, which has a policy to cut or decrease support provided to sporting or community groups if they operate or receive help from poker machine venues.

Anti-gambling campaigners support move

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.

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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