Geelong council opposes new pokies application
A council in Victoria has voted to oppose an application for 11 additional electronic gaming machine at a popular hotel.
Mirage News reports an application made by Waurn Ponds Hotel has been opposed by Greater Geelong council, having declared its opposition to an increase in pokies in the region.
Further emphasising its desire to reduce the impact of gaming machines in the community, councillors also resolved to write to the Victorian government, requesting a reduction in Greater Geelong’s electronic gaming machine cap.
An alternative motion put forward by Cr Sarah Mansfield and supported by the council at last Tuesday’s meeting noted the “increased community concern about the harm caused to individuals and the wider community through problem gambling.”
The Victorian government has set a cap of 1421 gaming machines across Greater Geelong and the Borough of Queenscliffe.
There are 1357 pokies licenses allocated, with 64 still available.
All venues wishing to secure a license must apply to the Victorian Council for Liquor and Gambling Regulation.
If Waurn Ponds Hotel is successful in its bid, its poker machine numbers would increase from 70 to 81.
Councillors opposed the proposal for more machines, based on the fact that Greater Geelong already has more machines than any other region in Victoria, creating substantial financial losses in the community.
The council believes COVID-19 has created additional financial and social stress, not captured in the Census data used to inform the application.
Pokies in Greater Geelong generated $119 million in losses during the 2018-19 financial year, with the 70 existing machines at Waurn Ponds Hotel accounting for $6.6 million.
Council has objected to three recent applications from venues in the region, appearing in person at all three VCGLR hearings.
These challenges resulted in the refusal of an application for extra machines at White Eagle House in Breakwater, and more stringent conditions on the introduction of additional machines at Geelong RSL in Mansfield.
No extra pokies for White Eagle House
The Polish Community Association in Geelong has had its application for an increase in gaming machines knocked back.
Bay 93.9 reported in April 2019 that the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation last week refused the venue’s application.
The White Eagle House in Breakwater was seeking to increase its number of poker machines from 35 to 78 in a move that divided the community.
The City of Greater Geelong announced in January they would oppose the move and endorsed a spend of $30,000 to appear in person at the hearing with legal representation and an expert independent witness.
In its argument against the application, council said they were not in favour of it because White Eagle House is in an area of social and economic disadvantage and the area already has a higher concentration of pokies within a 2.5 kilometre radius than the average density across the municipality.
Data found pokies users lost a total of $1.69 million at White Eagle House during the 2017/18 financial year, an average of $48,391 per machine.
Council vote in January endorsed spend
Councillors voted 7-4 in January in favour of spending A$30,000 fighting the associations bid, despite recently losing thousands on a similar battle with the Geelong RSL.
The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) approved the RSL’s application for 30 extra pokies in December, despite council committing lawyers and ‘in-house’ representation to the fight.
The addition of an independent expert in this new case with White Eagle House is believed to be an important facet of the council’s strategy.
“If we analyse recent decisions at the VCGLR, the best chance we have of success is to have legal representation and an independent expert to present the strongest case possible,” Cr Sarah Mansfield told the Geelong Indy.
She opposed the application despite acknowledging the association’s “good work”.
“The density of EGMs (electronic gaming machines) in this area (Breakwater) is very high already, and this application seeks to increase that density even further.