A push for more pokie machines at the Ballarat Golf Club to fund an almost $1 million dollar renovation will be up for debate next week.
Applying to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) for six more machines, the Sturt Street club states additional revenue will lead to a $980,000 ‘face-lift’ of the bar area, new lighting, carpets and fresh paint.
City of Ballarat officers will recommend at an ordinary council meeting on October 3 a social and economic impact statement be lodged alongside the club’s bid, which would detail the potential harms of the new machines.
In Ballarat, there is an average of $149,500 lost by players on electronic gaming machines (EGMs) every day, with over $56 million lost in 2017/18.
In their application, the club states they will increase charitable donations to local Rotary Clubs and United Way if the EGMs are approved. Consultants noted the proposal would will result in a “slightly positive impact” to local community on balance.
The Ballarat Golf Club currently has 28 machines, but the venue has planning approval for 36 EGMs.
Council officers stated in a report to be tabled at next week’s meeting that while the club’s proposal showed some community benefit, there was contrary evidence available “that only a very small percentage of player losses are provided back to the community through benefit initiatives”.
“Even if this were only for a short period of time, six less EGMs in the city would reduce local expenditure and harm by a significant figure,” the council officer stated.
But by challenging the club’s application to the VCGLR for more pokies, council may have to pay legal fees for a hearing of up to $50,000.
The municipality states that Ballarat has 8.3 machines to every 1000 adults, which is higher than other regional cities including Geelong, Bendigo and Shepparton.
North Ward councillor Daniel Moloney said he wanted the municipality to look at different ways they could reduce and combat gambling in Ballarat.
“The very small bit that is put back into the community after a large amount is ripped out, it’s a joke. We’re a poorer municipality for them, generally,” he said.
“If anything, I think the time is now right to be more assertive in that space.
“While we have state governments of all political colours that are addicted to the revenue, there are other things councils can do, we can withdraw support for a club that has pokie machines,and be very clear in our public position that they do more harm than good.”
The Ballarat Golf Club was approached by The Courier for comment on this story, but did not respond by deadline.