Yarra Ranges Council has thrown its support behind a Municipal Association of Victoria and Salvation Army campaign to better protect for vulnerable communities from inappropriate placement of pokies machines.
Dozens of Mayors and Councillors from around Victoria attended the launch of the “Enough Pokies” campaign last Thursday, which was supported by Word Vision’s Tim Costello and the Salvation Army’s Bruce Redman.
Mayor Fiona McAllister said protecting vulnerable communities from the inappropriate placement of pokies is an important objective for local government.
“In 2013-14 losses to poker machines in the Yarra Ranges was $26,625,127. We have to be extremely careful about where those machines are placed given the significant harm they can cause to the surrounding community,” she said.
Convener of the Victorian Local Government Association Working Group on Gambling, Yarra Ranges Councillor, Samantha Dunn, attended the launch.
“In recent years the big operators have been attempting to grow their gaming revenues by moving more of their machines into the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in the state. They have been assisted by an inadequate legal framework,” Cr Dunn said.
Cr Dunn said the current legal test which required that there be ‘no net detriment’ arising for a community as a result of an application was failing Victorians.
“There is a lack of guidance in how the Victorian Commission for Liquor and Gambling Regulation (VCLGR) should apply the test,” she said.
“It is time for the State Parliament to issue it with binding guidance so that it makes decisions in the public interest.”
Of the 154 VCGLR decisions since July 2008, 93% have been decided in favour of the gaming operator, despite strong council and community objections in more than half of these applications.
“We need the next Victorian government to provide clear and simple guidance to the VCLGR on how it must apply the ‘no net detriment’ in the public interest rather than in the interests of the big gaming operators.”
Tim Costello, chairman of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, said that greater efforts were needed to limit the damage done by pokies.
“Each year, over $2.5 billion is lost in pokies across Victoria. That’s almost $7 million per day out of the pockets of Victorians and into gaming machines,” Mr Costello said.
“We need to strongly consider the damage that pokies can do to people and to communities. This is especially true of Victoria’s poorer postcodes.
“Any step that helps to protect vulnerable communities from the harm of poker machines is a step worth taking, and I fully support what the Enough Pokies campaign is trying to achieve,” he said.
Municipal Association of Victoria President Bill McArthur said that local councils had demonstrated a deep concern about the issue.
“The MAV State Council overwhelmingly voted to support this call for change. It is clear to us, by the number of councils who have expressed their concern for the welfare of their communities, that inappropriate placement of pokies is an area the state government needs to address,” Cr McArthur said.
In support of the Enough Pokies campaign, the MAV has sought protection for vulnerable communities from pokies in its Call to Parties document submitted to all major political parties ahead of the state election.
Follow the campaign on Facebook.com/EnoughPokies or @EnoughPokiesVic.
Labels: cr samantha dunn, enough pokies, gambling, poker machines, yarra ranges council