Council opposes White Eagle House pokies application

Thursday, 31 January 2019

We will appear in person at a hearing to oppose a proposed Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs) increase at White Eagle House in Breakwater.

The Polish Community Association has applied to more than double its number of EGMs at White Eagle House from 35 to 78, with the matter to be heard by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) on 26 February.

Council has endorsed a budget spend of up to $30,000 for legal representation and an independent expert witness to present at the hearing.

The independent expert witness will be an important part of our case and, along with the barrister, will strengthen the submission by fully explaining the social and economic impact data. This will give the VCGLR a more in-depth understanding of the likely impacts of a pokies increase at White Eagle House.

We will also lodge a written response to the VCGLR before the 11 February deadline.

Our officers have assessed the association’s application and concluded that an increase in pokies at the venue would be to the community’s detriment, particularly given its location.

Pokies users lost a total of $1.69 million at White Eagle House during the 2017-2018 financial year, an average of $48,391 per machine.

Our Electronic Gaming Policy argues against the introduction of EGMs in areas of social and economic disadvantage, and in areas where the density of existing pokies is above that of the municipality as a whole.

The current density of machines within a 2.5 kilometre area of White Eagle House is 20 per 1000 adults. This is significantly higher than the overall Greater Geelong figure of 6.5 pokies per 1000 adults.

You can have your say on the application until 13 February 2019.

Councillor Bruce Harwood - Mayor

Pokies users in Greater Geelong lost more than $118 million during the past financial year, and around 20 per cent of this was in the area directly surrounding where these proposed machines would be located.

We have a responsibility to protect our community from harm, especially in areas of disadvantage, and there’s no doubt the extra pokies would have an overall negative effect on local residents.

This decision sees Council continuing its strong stance in trying to protect those who have problems with gambling, as we work towards a high standard of health and wellbeing throughout the community.

Councillor Sarah Mansfield - Chair - An Inclusive and Diverse Community portfolio

I acknowledge the good work of the Polish Community Association, but I cannot support this application. The density of EGMs in this area is very high already, and this application seeks to increase that density even further.

There’s a large body of evidence that says more machines is linked to more problem gambling. Studies have shown that areas with greater numbers of EGMs have higher numbers of help seeking by problem gamblers.

An argument often made in support of pokies is that a portion of the revenues are put back into the community. But the issue is where the money’s coming from, and that is what I simply can’t support. The overall harm to the community from problem gambling to me far outweighs any benefit.

If we analyse recent decisions at the VCGLR, the best chance we have of success is to have legal representation and an independent expert to present the strongest case possible.

Page last updated: Tuesday, 12 March 2019