An application for extra pokies at one of Ballarat’s biggest sporting venues will continue, accompanied by a municipal report about the community harms.
The Ballarat Golf Club will ask the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) for six more machines.
The club currently has 28 pokie machines in its premises.
City of Ballarat officers will now create a social and economic impact statement, to be lodged alongside the club’s bid to the VCGLR, which would detail the potential harms and benefits of the new electronic gaming machines (EGMs).
Councillors agreed to the additional report at an ordinary council meeting on Wednesday night.
The club on Sturt Street states the additional revenue will lead to a $980,000 ‘face-lift’ of the bar area, new lighting, carpets and fresh paint.
Ballarat Community Health's research coordinator Dr Deb Greenslade told the meeting that the way pokies machines are designed “cultivate addiction in the same ways as cocaine does”, impacting similar parts of the brain.
“Research shows it’s people across the spectrum [using EGMS],” she said.
“Often people who might be using pokie machines in a social way may have something change or a major life event, they might lose their spouse … and use more problematic gambling as a way to cope with that event.
“Pokie machines are associated with devastating harm: relationship breakdowns, family violence, mental ill health and even suicide.”
VCGLR’s most recent reporting suggests Ballarat’s August losses this year was $5.15 million, up from $4.87 million in August 2017.
Ballarat Golf Club general manager Gary Fry said as a not-for-profit organisation supporting social and physical well-being, and situated in an area will less disadvantage, EGMs were better placed at their club.
“Our revenue from pokie machines goes to club members and to community groups … we might be the biggest hub in Ballarat for socialising,” he said.
“From a personal point of view, it’s better that people come to us, we’re more proactive for monitoring the floor for what we consider problem gambling [than other venues], interrupting them to give people breaks and interacting.”
Pokie machines are associated with devastating harm: relationship breakdowns, family violence, mental ill health and even suicide.Dr Deb Greenslade
If the application is approved, Ballarat will hit its regional cap on pokie machines in the area, which stands at 663.
In their application for more EGMs, the club states they will increase charitable donations to local Rotary Clubs and United Way if the new pokie machines are approved.
Consultants employed by the club noted the proposal would will result in a “slightly positive impact” to local community on balance.
Council officers stated in a report to tabled at the meeting that while the club’s proposal showed proof of 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”.
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