On 23 July 2019, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation heard an application from Monbulk Bowling Club Inc to increase the number of pokies at Monbulk Bowling Club from 30 to 40.
The Shire of Yarra Ranges opposed the application but did not appear at the hearing.
On 19 August 2019, the commission approved the application with conditions.
The commission found the social and economic impact to the wellbeing of the Shire of Yarra Ranges community, if the application was approved, will not be detrimental. Hence the 'no net detriment' test was met.
The commission's approval is subject to the following conditions:
- building renovation works at the venue must be substantially completed within three years of the date of this decision
- Stage 1 of the building renovation works must be substantially completed within 12 months of the date of this decision
- if any stages of the building renovation works are not substantially completed on time, the commission may extend the time for completion. If the commission agrees to extend the time for completion of any stage of the works, the commission may require that any of the additional pokies cease operation during the period of the extension
- the club must make annual cash contributions of $30,000 (increased each year by CPI) to community groups and associations in accordance with the club's guidelines for Community Support Applications and will provide a clear benefit to the local community in the Shire of Yarra Ranges.
ECONOMIC IMPACT BENEFITS AND DISBENEFITS
In making this determination, the commission weighed the following economic impact benefits and disbenefits.
Expenditure on capital works was given positive impact, with marginal to low weight.
- The club proposed to undertake a redevelopment of the venue at an estimated cost of $1.727 million. The redevelopment works would comprise refurbishment of the bistro and kitchen facilities, flipping of the upstairs layout in respect of the club and bistro demarcation and installation of an alfresco component, installation of a fireplace and more comfortable seating at the centre of these two areas, installation of a break out area for gaming patrons, relocation of the sign-in desk, and reconfiguration of the gaming room. While the club expressed a preference for using local contractors to undertake these works, there was no commitment to do so and therefore the commission could not be certain of the extent to which this expenditure would benefit Yarra Ranges.
Supply contracts and complementary expenditure was given positive impact, with marginal to low weight.
- The application did not contain any figures or evidence in relation to the economic benefit associated with supply contracts and complementary expenditure. The commission found that there is likely to be an increase in patronage at the venue arising from the proposed renovation works and evidence that the bistro will open for lunch and café style food will be available all day. As these food options are not currently available, the commission considered this will likely lead to increased complementary expenditure and supply contracts.
Employment creation was given positive impact, with marginal weight.
- The club currently employs 20 staff - four full-time employees, two part-time employees and 14 casual employees. The additional 10 pokies will result in increased patronage of the facilities at the Monbulk Bowling Club and 2 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions will created. It is expected that these positions are likely to be filled by residents of Yarra Ranges, based on existing hiring practices.
Increased gaming competition in the Shire of Yarra Ranges was given positive impact, with marginal weight.
- There are nine gaming venues in Yarra Ranges, with the nearest venue being 15 kilometres from the Monbulk Bowling Club. The club gave evidence that customers move to other venues due to limited choice of pokies at the Monbulk Bowling Club. Therefore, the additional 10 pokies will make the venue more competitive and increase gaming competition in Yarra Ranges.
Gaming expenditure not associated with problem gambling was given positive impact, with marginal weight.
- The portion of new gaming expenditure not attributable to problem gambling is an economic benefit. It was estimated that the additional 10 pokies will result in an increase in expenditure of $499,770 in the first 12 months, with 64 per cent being transferred expenditure from a number of existing venues in Yarra Ranges and the neighbouring City of Knox. It was estimated that new expenditure will be $182,216 which is an increase of 0.6 per cent in Yarra Ranges. The commission was confident that RSG practices at the club are good and will improve with completion of the proposed works, which will include the installation of a new reception desk with screening to limit the line of sight into the gaming room, a new break-out area to allow patrons to take a break from the pokies, and the fitting of additional surveillance cameras in the gaming room.
Gaming expenditure associated with problem gambling and gambling related harm was given negative impact, with marginal weight.
- The portion of new gaming expenditure attributable to problem gambling is an economic disbenefit. The increase in the number of pokies by one third (from 30 to 40) and the increase in venue attractiveness has the potential to increase gambling harm. The commission found that, based on the SEIFA index scores, the catchment area of the venue shows low vulnerability in the community. The commission also considered that the club, even with an additional 10 pokies, will remain a small sized venue, with reasonably low pokies expenditure and a relatively modest amount of new expenditure. The commission found the club has demonstrated a satisfactory commitment to RSG and that RSG measures at the venue will further improve with the completion of the proposed renovation works.
Diversion of trade from other gaming and non-gaming venues was given negative impact, with nil to marginal weight.
- The anticipated transfer rate of 64 per cent is expected to be spread across existing gaming venues within Yarra Ranges and neighbouring City of Knox. It was estimated that six venues would likely experience losses in gaming revenue, however no single venue would be significantly impacted. There was no evidence presented regarding the transfer of revenue from non-gaming venues.
SOCIAL IMPACT BENEFITS AND DISBENEFITS
In making this determination, the commission weighed the following social impact benefits and disbenefits.
Increased gaming opportunities for those who enjoy gaming was given positive impact, with marginal to low weight.
- The application will increase gaming opportunities by providing an additional 10 pokies at which patrons may choose to play. An increase in the number of pokies by a third at the venue will enhance the range and variety of machines available at the venue for recreational players to meet customer needs. This is a marginal benefit in light of the current number of pokies in the Monbulk Bowling Club (30) and within Yarra Ranges (438) as well as the eight other gaming venues in Yarra Ranges.
Improved facilities enabling a greater range of services was given positive impact, with low weight.
- The commission found there will be some social benefit in the refurbishment of the existing facilities as it will modernise the venue and make for a more pleasant experience. The benefits from the proposed works include the availability of the bistro and café food during lunch. The refurbishment will create a more pleasant atmosphere in what is a dated facility, which could increase the appeal of the venue to younger patrons. However, the commission noted the proposed works do not create any new facilities, but rather enhance the existing ones.
Increased community contributions (includes both economic and social benefits) was given positive impact, with low weight.
- The commission considered the additional community contributions of $15,000 cash per annum will be distributed under the club's prescribed community support program. These contributions will be in addition to the existing $15,000 per year in cash contributions the club currently makes. In addition, the club expected to increase it's in-kind contributions up to the equivalent of $110,000. The commission noted the club currently makes a significant contribution to the local community and saw no evidence to suggest that the club will not continue to provide similar benefits, including the intention to make additional cash contributions and in-kind contributions.
Possibility of increased incidence and the potential impact of problem gambling on the community, including family violence, was given negative impact, with marginal to low weight.
- A proportion of total gaming expenditure at the Monbulk Bowling Club will be associated with problem gambling. Adverse impacts relating to problem gambling include health, jobs, finances, emotional states and relationships. Therefore, a portion of the $182,216 of new expenditure in the first year of installation of the machines will be associated with gambling-related harms. The commission found the catchment area exhibits mixed but generally lower socio-economic disadvantage, and the club's future patron base is likely to consist of the same demographic with the same risk profile as it currently does. However, the commission did note that club is seeking to attract some younger patrons to the venue, who may exhibit a new risk profile in terms of gambling-related harms and/or financial vulnerability. The commission found that protective factors from a RSG perspective are positive and that measures associated with the proposed works will further improve RSG at the venue. Further, the commission found that the impact of an increase of this size (from 30 to 40 pokies) will not transform the venue in such a way as to increase the risk of incidence and the impact of problem gambling on the community.
Community attitude was given negative impact, with marginal weight.
- The commission considered that community attitude towards the application was mixed. It noted the Shire of Yarra Ranges, as the representative body of the relevant community, made a submission opposing the application but did not appear at the hearing to give evidence and allow its claims to be tested. The commission received 18 objections to the application from 15 predominantly local individuals, as well as three community organisations operating in Yarra Ranges - Outer East Primary Care Partnership, Women's Health East, and Yarra Ranges Township Group Network. The commission received 24 submissions from local individuals in support of the application, including 18 from Monbulk Bowling Club members, bowlers, employees or sponsorship recipients.