Although Council are limited in directly influencing policy around gambling, there are certain measures we can take to protect vulnerable members of our community. In 2013 I moved a successful motion to lobby State and Federal Government for more clarity around environmental, economic and social detriment in regards to Planning matters, as stated in the Act. Thus far there has been no strengthening of this Section of the Act and most gambling applications are passed. If refused at a Council level, VCAT generally overturns the ruling.
State receive $1billion worth of revenue, so that could partly explain why they are dragging the chain of reform. Overall, pokie machines cause a $2.4billion loss from the community. Statistics say 85% of harm to the community is by low risk gamblers. Addicted gamblers only make up 15% of harm, but 25% of gamblers who play pokie machines on a weekly basis, do become addicted. Of particular concern is the lure of online gambling. Most children associate Sportsbet as a normal part of sporting activity, and this trend is continuing.
Gaming Machines in small clubs have been labelled a ‘con’, as they are not a good investment and many small clubs are trying to pull out. Beyond licence fees, hire and rates, it becomes cost prohibitive and diverts attention away from their core business. A stand-alone club can barely on-sell the license for $3000 because there is no demand outside larger clubs who already hold the monopoly.
Pokie machines favour those with no ethics. Irresponsible operators are in the market because the ‘Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct’ is not worth the paper it’s printed on. Unless there is a huge crackdown, some unscrupulous operators will continue to ignore regulations by allowing one player to use multiple machines at once and even serve food straight to the machine. These machines are geared for people to lose 90% of the money they put in. It’s the only way to make a profit.
What can Council do about it?
- Join the ‘Alliance for Gambling Reform’ to continue lobbying State and Federal Governments
- Consider visual and audible accessibility during the planning applications, from gaming areas to public areas; such as restaurants or bars
- Develop a ‘Council Workforce Strategy’ to boycott unsafe spaces
- Educate small operators about the dangers of investing in pokie machines
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