The Greens are pushing to retain local councils' right to charge increased rates to pokies venues so that they can tackle problem gambling in their communities.
Ballarat City Council introduced increased rates for pokie venues in the latest budget to raise money to help tackle problem gambling, deter new pokies venues and fund VCAT hearings when poker machine venues disagree with a council decision not to grant or increase machines.
Poker machine venues in Manningham, Moreland and Darebin also pay higher than standard rates.
As reported in The Courier on August 31, legislation before state parliament is clearing the way for guidelines on the use of differential rates to give the local government minister the power to reject applications for differential rates.
Current debate reveals that the proposed new rules will be supported by the Labor opposition.
The Greens will oppose this legislation and fight for local councils' right to tackle problem gambling.
Ballarat council should stand up to the Baillieu government on this issue instead of taking a "we will just have to wait and see" approach.
While many local councils are attempting to take a firm stance against pokies by developing strong local policies, the Baillieu government and Labor opposition are actively working against them in their efforts to address the social and financial harm caused by pokies in communities.
The Age recently reported that the Australian Hotels and Hospitality Association confirmed that the association had lobbied for action on differential rates during the 2010 state election campaign. Australian Electoral Commission records show the association was one of the most generous donors to both major parties during the campaign, donating $145,000 to the Coalition and $168,000 to Labor in the 2010-11 financial year.
Locally, there is mounting community pressure on Ballarat council to oppose an application for poker machines at Oscar's Hotel and stand firm on their electronic gaming policy.
Many people in Ballarat would like the local council to have the ability to implement policies that reduce harm associated with problem gambling.
Greens candidate, Central Ballarat