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Victorian pub hits back at free drinks claim

Mon, Apr 8, 9:57am by Staff Writer

A Victorian club has hit back at claims from its council that it needs to more tightly regulate its venue, Star Community reports.

The Greater Dandenong Council recently voted to lobby for a ban on inducements such as free drinks and gifts as ploys to increase players’ gambling.

Mandatory breaks and daily time limits on gamblers would also be part of its submission to a state government review of its responsible gambling code of conduct.

Club Noble president Barry Bradshaw said the Victorian club industry would refute that it was engaging in activities to increase the amount of money lost by people.

“The Victorian gaming sector is highly regulated to ensure that this type of behaviour does not exist and to ensure that adequate harm minimisation activities are in place.”

Mandatory breaks and daily time limits were “good in theory” but difficult to manage due to staff shift changes, Mr Bradshaw said.

The Noble Park-based venue did not provide gift incentives, he said.

“If requested however, we will provide complimentary coffees to gaming patrons, which are usually consumed in the lounge area,” he said.

“We don’t consider this an inducement but a respite for patrons having time away from gaming machines.”

Mr Bradshaw said an example cited by Cr Matthew Kirwan of a pokies venue using “coffees, drink shouts and toasties” to retain gamblers was “misleading”.

“They refer to a one-year old Sydney Morning Herald report where a hotel employee in New South Wales reported a practice of spying on players to learn about their gambling patterns.”

“More than any other state, the gaming sector in Victoria is highly regulated to ensure compliance,” he said.

Councillors voted to review code of conduct

On March 25, the majority of councillors voted to make a submission to a state government review of its responsible gambling code of conduct.

The council’s suggested reforms will include banning staff from ploys to increase players’ gambling, such as gifts and inducements like free drinks other than water.

The council will also press for mandatory breaks and maximum daily time limits for gamblers, according to Star Community News.

Staff would also be required to monitor and assist people showing signs of “gambling harm” by banning them form the venue for 24 hours.

“Council is a huge supporter of this review and the need for reform in this space,” Mayor Roz Blades said.

Councillor Sean O’Reilly said the council’s position was “not ideological”.

“We’re seeking practical and reasonable increased speed limits on money coming out of problem gamblers’ pockets that could be better spent in family budgets.”

“If there’s any community that should be putting it forward, it is our community – that is most affected and afflicted by problem gambling.”

The council’s residents are one of the hardest hit by poker machine losses, pouring in $121 million in 2017-18.

The Greater Dandenong area loses the most per adult (nearly $1000 a year each) on poker machines.

It has the second-highest number of machines in greater Melbourne at 958 and is one of the region’s most socio-economically disadvantaged.

According to a council report, for every dollar lost to poker machines at local clubs in 2017-18, only three cents on average is returned to the community as donations, gifts and sponsorships, veterans support and volunteering expenses.

The council’s position support the Alliance for Gambling Reform’s stance.

The alliance includes councils and organisations such as The Salvation Army and anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello.

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