On 13, 20 and 27 April 2018, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation heard an application from Darebin RSL Sub-Branch Inc to increase the number of pokies at the Darebin RSL in the City of Darebin from 65 to 80.
The City of Darebin did not support the application.
On 4 May 2018, the commission granted the application. The reasons for decision were published on 1 June 2018.
The commission found the social and economic impact to the well-being of the Darebin community if the application was approved will be slightly positive, and hence the 'no net detriment' test was met.
The commission's approval is subject to the following conditions:
- prior to the installation of any of the additional 15 pokies, the club must install screening and other measures at the venue, details of which were included in plans and evidence provided to the commission
- Stage 1 of the building works at the venue must be substantially completed within two years after the relevant planning permit is issued and before the additional pokies can commence operation, otherwise the approval will lapse
- Stage 2 of the building works must be completed prior to the operation of any additional pokies
- Stages 2 to 6 of the building works must be substantially completed within five years after the relevant planning permit is issued, otherwise the approval will lapse
- the commission may extend the time for the completion of the building works. If an extension is granted, the commission may require any additional pokies to cease operation at the venue during the period of the extension
- the club must make annual cash contributions of $15,000 (increased each year by CPI) to not-for-profit community and sporting organisations within the City of Darebin. These contributions are in addition to existing cash contributions made by the club, which have averaged $17,731 per annum over the past four years
- if the additional $15,000 cash contributions are not allocated in full each year as required, the additional pokies must cease operation immediately until the outstanding contribution amounts are made.
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.
- Total expenditure on capital works at the venue is estimated to be $9.64 million over six stages. The club has committed to completing these works within five from the issuing of a planning permit. While there is some uncertainty that expenditure will be retained in the City of Darebin, evidence was given that suppliers are expected to be sourced locally.
Community contributions was given positive impact, with marginal weight.
- The club is committed to providing additional annual cash contributions of $15,000 to not-for-profit organisations within the City of Darebin. These contributions will be in addition to existing cash and in-kind community contributions and subsidies made by the club, which totalled $663,961 in 2016–2017.
Additional employment was given positive impact, with marginal weight.
- Approval of the additional 15 pokies will create between 7.5 and 8.5 additional full-time equivalent (FTE) positions at the club, once all six stages of the capital works are completed. However, it is expected that 90 per cent of the additional gaming expenditure at the club will be transferred from other venues in the City of Darebin. Accordingly, it is likely that some of the additional employment will be transferred from other gaming venues.
Gaming expenditure not associated with problem gambling was given positive impact, with no weight.
- The portion of additional gaming expenditure that is not attributed to problem gambling is considered an economic benefit. The expected new expenditure is $224,790 each year, which represents an increase of only 0.3 per cent in the total gaming expenditure in the City of Darebin.
Increase gaming competition in the City of Darebin was given positive impact, with marginal weight.
- The additional pokies have the potential to increase gaming competition in the City of Darebin by making the club more attractive to gaming patrons. This may lead to competing venues improving their facilities.
Gaming expenditure associated with problem gambling was given negative impact, with marginal weight.
- The portion of additional gaming expenditure attributable to problem gambling is considered an economic disbenefit. The commission noted that a portion of the expected new expenditure of $224,790 each year will be associated with problem gambling. The commission also accepted evidence that the catchment area exhibits relatively mixed levels of socio-economic disadvantage and there were indicators that made the community more vulnerable to the risks of problem gambling. However, the commission considered the manner in which the club conducts gaming at the venue, together with proposed responsible service of gaming (RSG) measures, will assist to mitigate the risk of problem gambling and gambling-related harm.
Diversion of trade from other gaming venues was given negative impact, with no weight.
- Due to the number of gaming venues in the City of Darebin, the commission considered the potential diversion of trade is unlikely to be felt by any single venue.
SOCIAL IMPACT BENEFITS AND DISBENEFITS
In making this determination, the commission weighed the following social impact benefits and disbenefits.
Improved facilities enabling a greater range of services was given positive impact, with low weight.
- The proposed building works will result in new non-gaming services and facilities that are not currently on offer at the club, such as a café/lounge and the reopening of a recreation centre. Other facilities, such as the sports bar and the bistro, will also be improved.
Increased gaming opportunities for those who enjoy gaming was given positive impact, with no weight.
- The City of Darebin currently has 754 pokies across 12 gaming venues. The additional 15 pokies at the club will provide limited additional opportunities for gaming.
Social benefit derived from increased community contributions was given positive impact, with marginal weight.
- The addition of a paid welfare officer and a second community bus and driver will increase the social benefits the club is able to offer. The annual cash contributions of $15,000 (indexed for CPI) will have a positive social impact on Darebin residents by supporting services provided by community organisations. The commission also considered that the granting of the additional pokies will allow the club to remain financially viable and therefore able to continue contributing to the community.
Possibility of increased incidence of problem gaming and the potential impact on the community was given negative impact, with marginal weight.
- Wherever accessibility to pokies is increased, there is always a risk of an increase in problem gambling and gambling-related harms. The City of Darebin is a mature gaming marketplace and the addition of 15 pokies is not likely to have a significant impact on gambling-related harm. The commission noted the additional 15 pokies will take the venue from a medium gaming venue to a large gaming venue, and this is associated with an increased risk of gambling-related harm. However, this risk is mitigated to some extent by the club's strong RSG practices and management's demonstrated commitment to its members.
Community attitude was given negative impact, with low to moderate weight.
- The commission acknowledged the submission from members of the community and the survey presented by Darebin Council expressing concern for the additional pokies. Overall, the commission considered that there is evidence of a negative attitude amongst some members of the community for the additional 15 pokies.
Increased exposure of children to gaming activity was given negative impact, with no weight.
- The club has committed to installing proposed screening of the gaming room and other protective measures at Stage 1 of the building works. These changes will decrease the potential for children to be exposed to the sights and sounds of the pokies, although it was noted that more children may be present at the club due to increased family patronage.