Hotels seek extra pokies: new Ballarat council faces first gaming policy test

THE new Ballarat City Council faces its first gaming policy test tomorrow night.

Two Ballarat hotels have applied to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation to increase their pokie numbers, with the VCGLR seeking the council’s stance on the proposals.

Craig’s Hotel in Lydiard Street South wants eight more machines while the Golf House Hotel in Doveton Street North wants an extra 10 to help fund a $1.6 million redevelopment.

If approved, Craig’s Hotel would increase from 37 to 45 machines while the Golf House would rise from 20 to 30.

Council officers have recommended the Golf House Hotel’s application be opposed on the grounds it is “likely to be detrimental to vulnerable members of the community”.

However, it is also recommended the council not oppose the Craig’s Hotel application because it fits into gaming policy guidelines.

 In a report to the council, acting people and communities director Neville Ivey said the Golf House Hotel was located within 400 metres of areas of socio-economic disadvantage.

“The patron survey conducted by the venue has identified that patron catchment is localised with 65.7 per cent coming from the suburb of Ballarat North,” the report said.

“...of concern is the proximity of the venue to communities that exhibit high levels of socio-economic disadvantage and are consequently more vulnerable to high EGM expenditure and problem gambling.

“It is for this council discourages gaming venues within 400 metres of areas of relative socio-economic disadvantage.”

Another report to the council said Craig’s Hotel was located in the CBD in line with its gaming policy.

“The social impact is likely to be neutral as there is no quantifiable social benefit to the community as facilities and activities provided by the venue are already readily available in the local area,” the report said.

“Conversely, introduction of the additional EGMs is unlikely to require new facilities or services such as counselling.”

It also warned opposing the application could cost more than $50,000.

Figures from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation show there are currently 645 licensed electronic gaming machines in the City of Ballarat.