BALLARAT City Council’s controversial gaming rate could be scrapped if the state government gets a greater say over differential rating.
Legislation before state parliament is aimed at putting guidelines on councils’ use of differential rates and giving Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell the power to reject their use.
Ballarat mayor Mark Harris said the gaming rate, which came into effect in July, could be dumped if the bill was passed.
“I think a lot of good, sensible rating could be crushed,” Cr Harris said. “We will just have to wait and see.”
The council’s gaming rate is imposed on Ballarat’s 15 poker machine venues, and is 16 per cent higher than normal residential rates.
It will raise $70,000 annually, which will be spent on problem gambling, harm minimisation programs and supporting the Gaming Policy Framework, which gives the council more power over pokie placements.
It is also used to fund Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearings when pokie venue operators disagree with the council’s decision not to grant or increase machines.
Cr Harris said gambling groups had lobbied the state government to block differential rating.
“They don’t want councils orchestrating social engineering. But I believe communities should make the decisions, not the state government.”
Moreland, Manningham and Darebin councils also have gaming venue rates, while other Victorian councils use differential rating to discourage fast-food outlets and late-night drinking venues.