On 29 and 30 November 2018, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation heard an application from Ballarat Golf Club Inc to increase the number of pokies at the Ballarat Golf Club from 28 to 34.
The City of Ballarat opposed the application and appeared at the hearing.
On 24 December 2018, the commission approved the application with conditions.
The commission found the social and economic impact to the wellbeing of the City of Ballarat 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:
- the club must make additional annual cash contributions of $5,000 (increased each year by the increase in CPI) to not-for-profit community groups and sporting organisations which provide services and facilities to residents in the City of Ballarat
- the club must continue to pay existing annual cash contributions of $5,815 to not-for-profit community and sporting groups in the City of Ballarat
- building renovation works must be substantially completed within 24 months of the additional six pokies commencing operation at the club
- if the building renovation works are not substantially completed on time, the commission may extend the time for completion. If an extension is granted, the commission may require that any of the additional pokies cease operation during the period of the extension.
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 no to marginal weight.
- The club proposed to undertake renovations at the venue at an estimated cost of $980,000 if the additional six pokies were approved. If the application was not approved, renovations of only $345,000 would be undertaken, meaning the potential economic benefit of the additional six pokies is $635,000. The renovations and refurbishments at the club include new tables and chairs for the function room and bistro/cafe, new lighting throughout, improvements to the bar area, new coolroom, store room and improved delivery area, new carpet tile flooring throughout the building and the installation of information and directional signage.
Additional employment was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.
- There was no evidence presented of any short term employment benefits associated with renovations at the club. There will be some longer term benefits with the employment of an additional 0.7 Equivalent Full Time (EFT) positions at the club.
Supply contracts was given positive impact, with no weight.
- The commission accepted the proposed capital works at the club will have a positive impact. However, no evidence was presented that the goods and services required for the works will be purchased locally within the City of Ballarat.
Complementary expenditure was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.
- Complementary expenditure is expected to be between $106,717 and $177,861 in the first year of the additional pokies operating. This will result from the overall improvements to the look and feel of the venue following the anticipated renovations and refurbishments. However, the commision considered there was no direct evidence on this impact, and that any increased spending may simply be transferred expenditure from within the City of Ballarat.
Community contributions was given postive impact, with no to marginal weight.
- The club will continue to make its current cash contributions ($5,815.10 in the past year) and proposes to make increased cash contributions of $5,000 per year. The additional $5,000 per year will be made to the following organisations - Rotary Club of Ballarat South ($1,500), Rotary Club of Ballarat ($1,000), Ballarat Sportsmen's Club ($1,000), United Way Ballarat ($1,000) and Rotary Club of Wendouree ($500). The commission considered the increased cash contributions will a positive economic benefit, but gave it no to marginal weight as only a small number of groups will directly benefit.
Increased gaming competition in the City of Ballarat was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.
- It is estimated the additional gaming expenditure from the six pokies will be between $40,050 and $60,076 in the first year of operation, with 40 per cent of this expenditure being transferred from other gaming venues in the City of Ballarat. The additional six pokies is only a small number compared to the overall gaming market in the City of Ballarat (657 pokies across 15 venues). Accordingly, there is unlikely to be a substantial increase in gaming competition in the area.
Gaming expenditure not associated with problem gambling was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.
- The portion of new gaming expenditure not attributable to problem gambling is an economic benefit. It is estimated that 40 per cent of the additional gaming expenditure from the additional six pokies will be transferred from other gaming venues in the area, resulting in new expenditure of between $24,030 and $36,045 in the first 12 months. While the average net pokies expenditure of $675 per adult in the City of Ballarat is higher than the state and regional average, the club is a small venue, has limited trading hours each day and overall low utilisation rates for its machines. The commission noted that there are already 217 pokies at other venues within 2.5 km of the club and considered that the additional pokies will increase patrons' choice of pokies rather than increasing the attractiveness of the venue.
Tax relief was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.
- Evidence was given that the club will benefit from tax relief of approximately $45,000 if the additional pokies are installed. While this represents a loss of $45,000 spread across Victoria, it represents a $45,000 benefit to the club with the funds being reinvested for facilities in the Ballarat community. The commission considered the net result will be positive for the City of Ballarat and gave it no to marginal weight.
Gambling expenditure associated with problem gambling was given negative impact, with no to marginal weight.
- The portion of new gaming expenditure attributable to problem gambling is an economic disbenefit. The catchment area of the venue indicates a marginally disadvantaged socio-economic profile, including residents having a level of socio-economic disadvantage and financial vulnerability that could make them more susceptible to gambling-related harms. The commission noted that all gambling carries some risk of problem gambling, and the introduction of six additional pokies at the club represented a relatively small risk.
Diversion of trade from non-gaming businesses was given negative impact, with no to marginal weight.
- Expenditure on the additional pokies will divert expenditure from non-gaming businesses in the City of Ballarat. It is estimated that new expenditure from the additional pokies will be approximately $30,000 in the first year of operation. However, given the low amount, the commission considered it was difficult to determine whether that expenditure would necessarily have been spent elsewhere in Ballarat.
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 no to marginal weight.
- The additional pokies will better serve the needs of gaming patrons by providing additional opportunities and choice. The club's gaming room is rarely at full utilisation throughout the year, although there are a number of hours of peak utilisation indicating a need for additional pokies. Evidence was given that the additional pokies will add greater choice to serve existing clientele.
Improved facilities enabling a greater range of services was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.
- The additional pokies will result in social benefits arising from the community's access to and use of improved facilities. The commission noted the improved facilities will not be visible to patrons and the scale of the proposed renovations will be limited.
Social benefit derived from increased community contributions was given positive benefit, with no to marginal weight.
- In addition to providing an economic benefit, increased community contributions can have a positive social impact by improving the social fabric of the community in which they are made. The commission considered the increased community contributions will directly benefit only a small number of groups, such as Rotary Clubs within Ballarat.
Possibility of increased incidence and potential impact of problem gambling on the community (including family violence) was given negative impact, with marginal weight.
- A proportion of total gaming expenditure at the club will be associated with problem gambling contributed by a small proportion of gaming patrons at the club. Adverse impacts include health, jobs, finances, emotional states and relationships. The commission considered there is potential for increased risk of gambling related harms resulting from the increase in the number of pokies at the club. However, the risk of harm was mitigated by the club offering a range of alternative recreational options, such as a golf course, bistro, children's play areas and lounge areas, in addition to having protective factors by screening the gaming room from external view and ensuring staff are trained and experienced in RSG practices.
Community attitude was given negative impact, with no weight.
- The commission recognised council's role in representing the community interest and noted that the council objected to the application and provided evidence in support of its objection. The commision noted the submissions it had received suggested there was a negative attitude to the application in portions of the City of Ballarat community. However, the commission considered no submissions were made to suggest the character of the community would be fundamentally altered if the additional six pokies were installed at the club.