THE City of Greater Geelong council has continued its recent opposition to any increase of pokies in the municipality, voting to oppose an application by the Waurn Ponds Hotel for 11 extra Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs).
The community is invited to add their views to the council’s opposition before the deadline tonight (Thursday, September 17).
At the September 8 meeting, officers recommended the council not oppose the hotel’s application to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) to increase its number of EGMs from 70 to 81, based on an assessment against the council’s 2017 Electronic Gaming Policy.
However, Cr Sarah Mansfield successfully put forward an alternate motion to oppose the increase, and noted the “increasing community concern about the harm caused to individuals and the wider community through problem gambling”.
Councillors also resolved to write to the state government requesting a reduction in Greater Geelong’s EGM cap.
The state government has set a cap of 1421 EGMs across Greater Geelong and the Borough of Queenscliffe.
With 1,357 pokies licenses allocated, there are 64 still available. All venues wishing to secure licenses must apply to the VCGLR.
Councillors voted to oppose the proposed increase on five grounds:
- The existing policy was created in 2017 and is under review, with a report due before the council late in 2020
- Greater Geelong already has more EGMs than any other region in Victoria, creating substantial financial losses in the community
- The council believes that COVID-19 has created additional financial and social stress, which is not captured in the 2016 Census data used to inform the assessment
- There has been rapid and substantial growth in the Waurn Ponds area, which in the council’s view may have altered the demographic information used for the assessment, and
- The council believes that COVID-19 may have created difficulties engaging with the community and relevant organisations about the
“It’s our duty to listen to the community, and I’ve received strong feedback in opposition to this application in recent days,” Cr Mansfield said.
“Our existing EGM policy is under review as a result of shifting community attitudes and the strong stance of this council during our term.
“There is justification for opposing this application, in particular the impact of COVID-19 on our community. There are many more people in our community who will be vulnerable to problem gambling on EGMs when gaming venues reopen.
“There’s a large body of evidence linking various community harms to problem gambling on pokies, and our region has the most pokies of anywhere in the state.”
The city must provide a submission outlining its opposition to the VCGLR by Saturday, September 19, and the community can provide their feedback before 5pm tonight (Thursday, September 17) at yoursay.geelongaustralia.com.au/waurn-ponds-hotel-electronic-gaming-machines-application.
The council has objected to three recent applications from venues in the region, appearing in person at all three VCGLR hearings.
These challenges resulted in the refusal of an application for extra pokies at White Eagle House in Breakwater, and more stringent conditions for the introduction of additional pokies at the Geelong RSL in Belmont.
An application from Clifton Springs Golf Club was approved by the VCGLR despite the council’s opposition.