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Will gambling funds help to fund a new community project in Brimbank?

Wed, Apr 10, 9:21am by Staff Writer

Victorian council Brimbank may be seeking gaming industry funding to help build a new $58 million leisure centre.

Brimbank Council, whose residents lose more money on the pokies than any other area is under pressure over the proposal.

The Age is reporting that Brimbank Council is struggling to finance its proposed Health and Wellbeing Hub in St Albans.

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 councillors 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.

Brimbank suffers the biggest gaming losses in Victoria with local pokies players gambling away almost $140 million in 2017-18.

It is also ranked as the second most disadvantaged municipality in metropolitan Melbourne by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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.

Brimbank mayor Lucinda Congreve confirmed the council had commissioned a consultant to seek out funding partners including the possibility of trying to “claw back directly some of the gambling losses experienced by our community,” according to e-mail exchanges with The Age.

Cr Congreve said that among the “potential investors” was Community Clubs Victoria, whose members include clubs with poker machines in Brimbank.

The council’s consultant on the fund-raising project is PR company PRX, which also works for Community Clubs Victoria, including overseeing its 2018 pro-gaming, state election campaign.

Community Clubs Victoria president Leon Wiegard said he had not had discussions with Brimbank about funding for the St Albans centre but that “we might be able to help”.

“Clubs in the area might chip in and I would encourage them to do it,” Mr Wiegard said.

Brimbank wants to keep pokies for sports club survival

It has been reported 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.”

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