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Brimbank may still seek gambling funds

Thu, Apr 18, 9:09am by Staff Writer

Brimbank council’s position on electronic gaming machines remains clear, despite reports the council could seek gaming industry funds to help build the $58 million St Albans Leisure Centre.

The Star Weekly is reporting that the council is struggling to find funding for the leisure centre and is now considering looking to the gambling industry for support.

Brimbank suffers the biggest gaming losses in Victoria, with almost $140 million lost in 2017-18.

The council has repeatedly highlighted the suffering caused by gaming machines and in October last year called for the community to sign the petition Pokies play Brimbank.

A report in The Age said a possible partnership with pokies operators was raised at a private gathering of councillors last month.

Neither the state nor federal government has offered the funds the council had hoped for.

The idea of a partnership with pokies operators was raised at a private gathering of councilors last month.

Those at the meeting say they are concerned such a partnership could give the pokies industry leverage over council policy, but would not comment publicly.

The powerful sport and gaming clubs that the council would be approaching to fund the leisure centre could also be subject to expensive new leases – instead of their current rents – under a tough, new draft gambling policy.

Experts tell council not to look for funds from gambling

Monash University gambling health expert Professor Charles Livingstone has implored the council not to go looking for funds from an industry that has done so much harm in the region.

“Globally, the gambling industry is very good at compromising governments at every level into dependency on gambling dollars, usually under the guise of ‘community benefits’.

“Such donations come at a cost, and in this case the cost is likely to be council’s independence when it comes to gambling policy and decision making.

Brimbank mayor Lucinda Congreve confirmed the council had commissioned a consultant to seek out funding partners including the possibility of trying to “claw back directly some of the gambling losses experienced by our community,” according to e-mail exchanges with The Age.

Cr Congreve said that among the “potential investors” was Community Clubs Victoria, whose members include clubs with poker machines in Brimbank.

The council’s consultant on the fund-raising project is PR company PRX, which also works for Community Clubs Victoria, including overseeing its 2018 pro-gaming, state election campaign.

Community Clubs Victoria president Leon Wiegard said he had not had discussions with Brimbank about funding for the St Albans centre but that “we might be able to help”.

“Clubs in the area might chip in and I would encourage them to do it,” Mr Wiegard said.

Council’s stance has not changed – Mayor

In a statement last week, Brimbank mayor Lucinda Congreve said the council’s position on electronic gaming was unchanged.

“As the municipality that consistently experiences the highest EGM losses in Victoria, Brimbank council has been vocal and steadfast in our calls for gambling industry reform,” she said.

“Brimbank continues to advocate for reform of the industry and the introduction of harm minimisation measures.”

Cr Congreve said the council operated within financial constraints and was looking at a variety of options for funding.

“Councillors recently discussed (during an informal meeting between councillors) potential opportunities to explore private sector investment in the much-needed St Albans Health and Wellbeing hub.

“This was a robust and broad discussion, exploring a number of options – including whether it would be appropriate for council to seek funds from agencies or companies that we do business with or even to try and claw back directly some of the gambling losses experienced by our community.”

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