BALLARAT’S poker machine numbers have again come into focus as the Victorian government considers rules surrounding differential rates implemented by councils.
With around eight machines for every 1000 residents, the City of Ballarat’s pokies cap of 663 machines is higher than the Victorian state average.
The cap – a legal limit on how many poker machine entitlements are available for gaming within specific local government areas – is imposed by Victoria’s Gaming Minister and regulated by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.
The total number of gaming machine entitlements in Victoria is currently capped at 30,000, of which 2500 are allocated to Melbourne’s Crown Casino.
Despite the cap, Ballarat punters put $55.9 million into the region’s electronic gaming machines last financial year.
In August 2011, City of Ballarat councillors made headlines around Australia by lobbying the Victorian government to cut the number of machines to the state average.
Negotiations with Gaming Minister Michael O’Brien were not resolved before council elections last year and councillors last week voted to approve eight new machines for Craig’s Royal Hotel while rejecting an application for the Golf House Hotel.
City of Ballarat councillor Belinda Coates said yesterday she would lobby fellow councillors and the Baillieu government for the cap to be reduced as future licence sales take place.
“It is something we should try to do because it would make a big difference to the community here in Ballarat,” Cr Coates said yesterday.
“I know in January 2011 the former council voted to seek to reduce the cap by 30 per cent but weren’t successful. Since then Bendigo have tried to reduce their cap as well as other local councils, but the state government is addicted to revenue made from pokies.”
Cr Coates said she would use “all opportunities” to address the issue and the impact electronic gaming machines have on vulnerable members of the community.
Lowering the pokie cap would require operators to remove machines from venues and possibly sell their entitlement back to the state government.
A spokesperson for Gaming Minister Michael O’Brien did not respond to requests for comments yesterday.