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Commission refuses application for additional pokies at Dandenong RSL

On 6 and 10 September 2018, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation heard an application from Dandenong Cranbourne RSL Sub-Branch Inc to increase the number of pokies at Dandenong RSL from 63 to 74.

The City of Greater Dandenong opposed the application and appeared at the hearing.

On 24 September 2018, the commission refused the application. The reasons for decision were published on 22 October 2018.

After considering the material before it, the commission was not satisfied that the social and economic impact of the application would not be detrimental to the wellbeing of the Greater Dandenong community. Accordingly, the 'no net detriment' test was not met and the application was refused.

ECONOMIC IMPACT BENEFITS AND DISBENEFITS

In making this determination, the commission weighed the following economic benefits and disbenefits.

Benefits

Expenditure on capital works was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.

  • The club will be renovated at an estimated cost of $2.7 million. While the amount of renovation expenditure is not inconsequential, there was a lack of sufficient detail on what proportion of the expenditure will occur within the City of Greater Dandenong.

Additional employment was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.

  • There was a lack of evidence as to the short term employment benefits associated wth the proposed renovations at the club. There will be long term benefits with the employment of an additional 5 EFT positions and the proposed second full-time welfare officer. However, the scale of this impact on the municipality at large is relatively insignificant.

Community contributions was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.

  • The club proposes to maintain its existing level of cash community contributions of $35,800 each year. However, there will be no increase in the amount of community contributions as a result of this application. The club proposes to employ a second full-time welfare officer on a salary of approximately $65,000 per year as a form of expenditure on community contributions, as well as contributing up to $50,000 per year to establish and fund a Veteran and Community Wellness Program. While the commission considered these initiatives will have a positive impact, there was a lack of detail of how they will benefit residents of Greater Dandenong.

Increased gaming competition in the City of Greater Dandenong was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.

  • The small number of additional pokies, compared to the overall market in the City of Greater Dandenong, is unlikely to result in 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 expenditure not attributable to problem gambling is an economic benefit. It was estimated that 83 per cent of the gross gaming expenditure derived from the additional 11 pokies would be transferred expenditure from other gaming venues within the City of Greater Dandenong, with the remainder being new expenditure . The commission considered that portions of the new expenditure would likely be associated with problem gambling, so gave this benefit no to marginal weight.

Disbenefits

Gambling expenditure associated with problem gambling was given negative impact, with low weight.

  • The portion of new expenditure attributable to problem gambling is an economic disbenefit. The catchment area of the club indicates a very highly disadvantaged socio-economic profile, with residents having a financial vulnerability that would make them more susceptible to gambling-related harms. The commission was not persuaded on the available information that the impact of the additional pokies would be lessened by the factors raised by the club.

Diversion of trade from non-gaming businesses was given negative impact, with no to marginal weight.

  • The commission recognised that the value of the estimated new gaming expenditure from the additional 11 pokies (approximately $144,000 in the first year of operation) could impact local non-gaming businesses. However, the commission noted it is difficult to determine whether this expenditure would necessarily have been spent at retail businesses in the City of Greater Dandenong, so gave this benefit no to marginal weight.

SOCIAL IMPACT BENEFITS AND DISBENEFITS

In making this determination, the commission weighed the following social impact benefits and disbenefits.

Benefits

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. Given the current number of pokies in Greater Dandenong, the commission considers this will have a negigible positive social impact on the community.

Improved facilities enabling a greater range of service was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.

  • There are social benefits arising from the community's access to and use of improved facilities resulting from additional pokies. However, the commission accepts that the refurbished clubrooms would not provide facilities that are not currently available in Greater Dandenong.

Backfilling was given positive impact, with no weight.

  • The commission considered evidence and submissions made in respect to backfilling, and gave this impact no weight.

Social benefit derived from increased community contributions was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.

  • In addition to providing an economic benefit, increased community contributions can also have a positive social impact by improving the social fabric of the community in which they are made. The commission was concerned about the extent of detail provided about the contribution towards the salary of the proposed second welfare officer and the contribution to the Veteran and Community Wellness Program. In relation to the Program, there was lack of sufficient detail as to whether the Program would actually involve new services to the Greater Dandenong community as opposed to merely being new services for the club. There were also concerns that the Program was to be provided at the club premises, thereby potentially exposing vulnerable persons to pokies, and not at the offices of other service providers within Greater Dandenong.

Disbenefits

Possibility of an increased incidence and potential impact of problem gambling on the community (including family violence) was given negative impact, with low weight.

  • Wherever accessibility to pokies is increased, there is a risk of an increase in problem gambling, which leads to other costs such as adverse health outcomes, family breakdowns and other social costs. The club considered the risk of adverse impacts associated with problem gambling would be unlikely as there was a range of other entertainment options for patrons besides gaming including bars, a bistro and lounge areas. Further, the gaming room is screened from external view and staff are experienced in RSG. However, the commission considered it appropriate to give low weight to this negative social impact due to the location of the venue within the City of Greater Dandenong and the patronage of the gaming room being predominately locals.

Community attitude was given negative impact, with no to marginal weight.

  • The commission was satisfied from the submissions received that some portions of the community were in support of the application, while there was a negative attitude in other parts of the Greater Dandenong community. The commission also recogised that the Council, as the representative body of the relevant community, objected to the application and provided evidence in support of its objection.

MORE INFORMATION

Read the decision EGM increase - Dandenong Cranbourne RSL Sub-Branch Inc.

See our infographic on the City of Greater Dandenong and compare pokies statistics with other councils across Victoria.

Media contact:
Fiona Skivington, Manager, Media & Communication
on +61428248931 or fiona.skivington@responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au

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