One of the councils in the state of Victoria with the strictest anti-gambling policies across the country is taking its battle against controversial pokies to the Supreme Court.
Susan Rennie, the Council Mayor of Darebin City, shared her disappointment with the support provided by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to the attempt of the Darebin RSL Club to add 15 more poker machines to its premises in spite of the fact that the community was opposed to such a gambling expansion.
At a confidential meeting which took place on Monday night, the Darebin Council decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court.
As revealed by Ms Rennie, the overall amount lost by Darebin residents on poker machines totals AU$82 million on an annual basis and is considered a major driver of household debt and family violence and breakdown.
In a separate decision, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has revealed that eventual addition of the extra 15 pokies, which would boost the total number of the poker machines at Darebin RSL Club to 80, would not have the expected negative impact on the local community. Despite that, the club did not get the Tribunal’s permission to operate for an extra 12 hours a week, since operating hours after 1 AM were considered a risk for problem gambling.
VCAT Says Extra Pokies Would Not Add Up to Negative Economic and Social Impact
According to the findings of VCAT, there was a generalised increased risk of gambling addiction as a result of the possible addition of the pokies in the Club’s premises. Providing more detailed data about the expected results, however, was not so easy.
As revealed by the Tribunal, the Darebin RSL Club had offered to make extra contributions of AU$15,000 on an annual basis to the local community. The operator also offered to pay for a second community bus in case its application for the extra pokies was given the green light. In addition, a paid welfare officer would also be employed.
As mentioned above, in its official decision, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal explained that the net economic and social impact of the extra 15 poker machines would be neutral to the economic and social well-being of the Darebin community.
For the time being, the City of Darebin hosts a total of 744 pokies, while the maximum number allowed is 769. On the other hand, the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation reported that the city has the 12th highest spending on poker machines in the state of Victoria. As revealed by Darebin Council Mayor Rennie, a community survey held in 2018 found out that 86.8% of the survey participants confirmed that poker machines were too easily accessible. In addition, 70.2% of the respondents considered pokies a serious problem for the local community.
Back in December 2018, a stricter new policy regarding pokies was unanimously passed by the Darebin Council to ban gambling operators from using council property for their services.