Brimbank ramps up pokies fight

By Ewen McRae

By Ewen McRae

Brimbank council’s fight against the harm caused by pokies is continuing with a draft policy aimed at reducing gambling losses.

Brimbank has long held the unenviable title of the state’s biggest loser when it comes to pokies, with $382,000 a day lost on the machines in the past financial year.

Mayor Lucinda Congreve said the policy “aimed to reduce the economic, social and health harms associated with Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs).”

“Brimbank is home to some of Melbourne’s most disadvantaged communities,” Cr Congreve said. “Yet year after year, Brimbank experiences the highest EGM losses in Victoria.

“We need to take action to reduce the harms that these losses bring to our community.”

The draft policy’s goals are identifying gambling-related harms, reducing the prevalence of gambling, increasing community understanding of gambling-related harms and reducing the reliance on gambling. The policy includes opposing any licensing applications for new or transferred EGMs, disallowing any new EGMs on council-owned land and working with current EGM operators to reduce community harm.

Much of the debate at last week’s council meeting centred on two clubs that operate EGMs on council land – St Albans Sports Club and Green Gully Soccer Club.

Cr Congreve said that while such clubs provided many benefits to the local community, those benefits had to be balanced against the harm caused by EGMs and the need to combat those harms.

“Council recognises that gambling is a legal form of entertainment that many people enjoy responsibly,” she said.

“Many clubs that have electronic gambling machines also have an important social role in their communities.

“This draft policy seeks to balance this aspect of gambling with the need to minimise harm to those who may be vulnerable … council welcomes feedback from everyone in our community.”

Residents can read the policy and provide feedback at until Friday, February 22.