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Hume to seek community advice about pokies

Fri, Jun 7, 8:56am by Staff Writer

Pubs and clubs wanting to add poker machines to their venues will need to consult the community and provide feedback to residents’ views to Hume council under a proposed new gambling harm minimisation policy.

The draft policy, adopted by the council last week, requires all gaming applications to include a community survey, The Star Weekly reports.

The survey, formulated by the council, will ask about attitudes to gaming machines, how often people play pokies and the impact they think more machines will have.

Under the proposed policy, council will monitor applications approved by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation for 12 months to ensure gaming expenditure is not greater than estimated in the applications.

The council has offered to work with sports clubs on council-owned land who want to disinvest from gaming.

There are three clubs on council-owned land who have poker machines, while a further two clubs are on land partly owned by council and the crown.

The new policy comes as commission figures reveal that more than $109 million was lost on Hume poker machines in 2017=18, placing it among the top 10 municipalities in Victoria for gaming losses.

The municipality is home to 14 gaming venues and 833 poker machines.

But state government legislation allows for another 18 machines to be installed.

Sunbury has the highest number of machines (230), followed by Craigieburn (150) and Campbellfield (145).

Cr Joseph Haweil said the draft gambling harm minimisation policy aimed to treat gambling as a public health issue.

“We are completely changing our approach,” he said.

“This policy seeks to reduce negative impacts from gambling and increase community awareness of the risks associated with gambling.”

Residents can have their say on the draft policy throughout June.

Brimbank may still seek gambling funds

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.

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