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Pokies a hot topic of conversation for Ballina council

Mon, Dec 17, 2:18pm by Staff Writer

A discussion on extending a rental discount for a local venue triggered an intense discussion about pokies among those in attendance at the Ballina Shire Council meeting last Thursday.

Local venue Club Lennox was subject for its rental discount of 50% to be extended by council, which is provided in recognition of the good community work they do.

During the discussion of the rental discount, a lively discussion on the role of poker machines at the club and in the community took place.

According to Councillor Keith Williams, “what seemed to be a relatively routine matter of extending a rental discount for a club on community land turned into a debate on the social cost of poker machines” he told Echonetdaily.

Club Lennox currently has 26 poker machines and as part of the rental discount extension proposal, the council decided to position an alternative discount arrangement to the venue in a bid to reduce its level of pokies.

Multiple discount options offered to Club Lennox

Deputy Mayor, Councilllor Nathan Willis moved a motion which offered the venue two alternative options outside its regular 50% discount.

  1. A 75% discount on the rental for Club Lennox by reducing poker machine

numbers by 10 per cent

  1. Conversion to a $1 peppercorn rental in decreasing poker machine numbers by 20%.

Councillor WIlliams highlighted the proposed discount options were at the club’s discretion stating “ ‘we are offering a financial incentive for the club to consider the impact of poker machines on the community. If the option doesn’t work for The Club, then they can continue with the current 50 per cent discount.”

“This recognises the great work Club Lennox already does in supporting a vibrant, welcoming community” he added.

The councillors voted 6-4 in favour of the motion.

Opponents to the motion said that the gaming industry was already heavily regulated by state government and it’s not the Councils role to regulate the machines or tell Club Lennox how to operate its business.

Ballina residents not happy with pokies presence in area

Earlier this year, new owners of Byron’s Beach hotel commissioned a survey of 890 residents in the state electorate of Ballina on pokies.

In one of the questions, three-quarters of the respondents answered that they would be happy with a cut back of poker machines with only 10% opposed to this.

The survey also uncovered that 80% of respondents felt that pokies were designed to get people addicted to them.

Statistics obtained from the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority from earlier this year showed there were 429 poker machines in the Byron Shire.

From these machines, over $138 million revenue was generated by venues with over $12.7 million in losses to players, a $34,794 loss per day.

The Local Impact Statement Assessment (LIA) map of the Ballina CBD identified that from the 13 venues in the area, there were 475 machines that reflected a ratio of 34 residents to each machine, from a total of 16,159 residents.

With the Ballina Shire Council proposed a rental incentive for Club Lennox to reduce their poker machine numbers, this may be an indication that the council will continue to adopt a proactive stance on this matter.

This proactivity may extend to brokering deals with other venues within the municipality in an attempt to lower the amount of machines available to residents.

Should Club Lennox choose to accept either of the two options offered by the council for reducing their pokie numbers, it appears likely the council will continue this incentive based approach with venues.

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