Darebin council wins anti-gambling case with local RSL

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Darebin council wins anti-gambling case with local RSL

Darebin City Council has won its appeal to stop the Darebin RSL from adding 15 more gaming machines, who has been dumped in the face of a Supreme Court challenge.

The council had lost its planning tribunal bid to stop the Darebin RSL in Preston expanding its poker machine count from 65 to 80. Given the decision, the council’s outrage saw it appeal to the Supreme Court.

According to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR), Darebin City Council sees $225,000 a day lost at Darebin’s 12 gaming venues from its population of 147,000. Gamblers lose approximately $82 million each year in the area’s 754 pokie machines.

The estimated level of revenue from the extra gaming machines at the Darebin RSL was expected to be in excess of $2 million a year.

The decision was announced during Gambling Harm Awareness Week, in which the council’s response to the design had this in mind, according to The Age.

“We know these machines cause a lot of harm,” Darebin deputy mayor Susanne Newton said. “Not just to the person gambling, but also their social networks of friends and family.”

Held between 7 and 13 October, Gambling Harm Awareness Week seeks to encourage community discussions about why gambling harm matters. Harm from gambling extends beyond losing money and onto its impact on self-esteem, relationships, physical and mental health, work performance and social life. It can harm not only the person gambling but also family, friends, workplaces and communities.

Strong policy in the region

Darebin has a strong policy where it attempts to stop any new gaming machines in its areas. This approach was heralded last year as Australia’s toughest  on gaming by the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

While the Darebin RSL has backed down on its poker machine bid, on Thursday it had a planned expansion of its other facilities approved by the Darebin Council, including additional car parking.

Darebin RSL manager Mark Russell said they had reached an “amicable position” with the council regarding the granting of its planning permit.

“The Darebin RSL Sub-Branch have always enjoyed a good relationship with the Darebin City Council, including council representation at commemoration events such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day,” he told the Leader.

The movement against the Darebin RSLs proposed poker machine increase has a link to the Alliance for Gambling Reform’s ‘The Pokies Play You’ campaign. An online petition was provided against the RSL’s bid for an extra 15 poker machines at its location.

The Alliance is a national advocacy organisation that works to prevent and minimise the harm from gambling. Its aim is to remove the shame that surrounds gambling addiction, have the problem treated as a public health issue, and achieve the legislative changes needed to protect residents within their communities.

It brings together over 60 organisations who share the objectives of preventing harm from gambling. The Alliance’s role is to provide coordination, expert advice and practical resources to their supporter organisations, community groups and media.

The VCGLR states that the City of Darebin has a regional cap of 769 poker machine entitlements. On 30 June 2018, there were 744 machines operating within the municpality, 97% of the legal limit. The average amount spent on pokies per adult in the 2017–18 financial year was $626.

Over the past three years, the only application that was made to the VCGLR for additional poker machines in the Darebin City Council had been the Darebin RSL’s.

The VCGLR operates the Prevention Partnership Program, which is funding a partnership with Darebin, Moreland, Hume and Whittlesea for ‘Libraries after dark’, a pilot after-hours program.

Back to top