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Sports clubs hope pokies money doesn’t go dry

Thu, Mar 28, 10:16am by Staff Writer

The Star Weekly is reporting that more than 1,300 people have signed petitions calling on the Brimbank council in Melbourne to allow two local sporting clubs to continue to operate poker machines on council land.

St Albans Sports Club and Green Gully Soccer Club both want assurances their venues will not be affected by the council’s new electronic gaming machines policy now being developed.

Both petitions requested, “that council provides assurances that the new Brimbank City Council EGM Gaming Policy continues to allow the St Albans Sports Club and Green Gully Soccer Club Ltd to operate EGMs on Brimbank City Council Land, thus allowing these clubs to continue and extend their community benefit.”

The petition at Green Gully was signed by 375 people, while St Albans Sports Club attracted 969 petitioners.

Sports chairman Garry Keenan said it was vital that they be allowed to continue to operate their current number of EGMs.

“We are very much a community club and do a lot for the community … our major concern is not being in a position to do all that community work,” Mr Keenan said.

“We sponsor a number of clubs, look after the ground, run very low-cost bingo, provide a free courtesy bus and that will disappear if we can’t operate as we currently do.” He said.

“Those pokie machines will then go to a hotel that won’t be doing all that for the community.”

The consultation period for the draft policy ended in February. Council’s acting community director Lynley Dumble said the focus of the new policy would be on harm minimisation.

“Council’s Draft Brimbank Electronic Gaming Policy proposes a public health and harm minimisation approach,” Ms Dumble said.

“This approach recognises that gambling is a legal activity, but seeks to reduce the potential harm that gambling can cause to individuals, family members and the community.”

“Council does not control approvals of EGMs or their operation. EGMs are regulated by the state government, which sets the allowable number of machines for each local government area and oversees gaming license approvals for individual venues.”

“The policy would evolve the way council works with all gaming venues, to encourage them to implement harm-reduction measures.” Ms Dumble said.

Highest pokies losses in Victoria

The City of Brimbank has the unenviable honour of racking up Victoria’s highest poker machine gambling losses, according to reports published last November.

Residents of Brimbank lost nearly A$140 million on poker machines in the last financial year as part of A$2.7 billion lost by Victorians.

The latest figures from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation revealed the biggest annual loss on the state’s 26,384 machines since 2008-09.

Those losses generated A$1.1 billion in taxes for the Victorian Government, but did not include Crown Casino’s 2,600 poker machines.

Brimbank councillor Virginia Tachos has had enough of the losses suffered by Brimbank residents and is championing gambling reform.

Petition for $1 maximum bets

In partnership with the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Ms Tachos launched a petition within the council asking for “betting regulation of the gambling industry to reduce the harm caused to our local community.”

The petition has called on political parties in the state to commit to reducing maximum bets, limit access to venues and to reduce the number of poker machines in the City of Brimbank.

The ‘Electronic Gambling Reform’ measures that the Brimbank Council is lobbying for include A$1 maximum bets on all electronic gaming machines, reducing the number of hours that gaming venues can operate per day in the region and a cap on the number of electronic gaming machines in Brimbank.

Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman and director, Reverend Tim Costello welcomed Brimbank Council’s unprecedented commitment to address its record levels of gambling losses.

“Enough is enough. We need to stop the harm that pokies are having on our communities. We are sending a united message to all politicians that we need pokies reforms as part of the next state election,” Rev Costello said.

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