On 21 and 23 November 2018, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation heard an application from Geelong RSL Sub-Branch Inc to increase the number of pokies at the Geelong RSL from 42 to 72.
The City of Greater Geelong opposed the application and attended the hearing.
On 10 December 2018, the commission approved the application with conditions. The reasons for decision were published on 1 February 2019.
The commission found the social and economic impact to the wellbeing of the City of Greater Geelong community if the application was approved will be neutral, 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 30 machines, the club must install floor to ceiling screens in the gaming room, install a door at the entrance to the gaming room, move the reception to the south of the existing entry, remove the existing reception and offices 1, 2 and 3 and replace them with the Community Hub and lounge/cafe, employ two RSG qualified staff members, purchase a courtesy bus and employ two courtesy bus drivers
- within 12 months of the planning permit being issued, the club must substantially complete works on the alfresco dining area, kitchen expansion, relocation of the interim lounge/cafe/Community Hub, and employ one welfare and pensions admin staff member, three chefs, three food & beverage staff members, one reception/admin staff member, one bistro/function coordinator and one function staff member
- within three years of the planning permit being issued, the club must substantially complete works on the relocation of the venue entrance and foyer with undercover drop off areas, as well as the new car park entry
- within five years of the planning permit being issued, the club must substantially complete the renovation and partial relocation of the gaming room, upgrade the toilets in the bistro, complete works on the new bar and sports lounge, upgrade and expand the bistro, complete works on the indoor/outdoor children's play areas, complete the additional offices and employ one reception/admin staff member
- the club must make annual cash contributions of $30,000 (increased each year by CPI) to the Schools Assistance Program for schools within the City of Greater Geelong
- these contributions must commence by 31 October 2020 and are in addition to existing cash contributions made by the club to the community and to the Geelong Football Club.
ECONOMIC IMPACT BENEFITS AND DISBENEFITS
In making this determination, the commission weighed the folowing economic impact benefits and disbenefits.
Gaming expenditure not associated with problem gambling was given positive impact, with marginal weight.
- The portion of new expenditurenot attributable to problem gambling is an economic benefit. It is estimated the gross gaming expenditure at the club will increase by $2.9 million in the first 12 months after the additional pokies are installed. It is predicted that 83 per cent of this aditional expenditure will be transferred from other gaming venues in Greater Geelong, resulting in $500,000 of new expenditure in the community. The club is located in a cathchment area of mixed, yet generally lower, relative socio-economic disdavantage, with pockets of increased disadvantage and vulnerability to the impacts of problem gambling.
Expenditure on capital works was given positive impact, with low weight.
- A potential economic benefit associated with the application is the expenditure on proposed works to redevelop the Geelong RSL. The club intends to undertake significant capital works of $4.4 million over five years to refurbish the current premises and expand its appeal to a broader range of patrons. Local trade contractors will be preferred "where possible", but there is no guarantee that contractors from Greater Geelong will be successful.
Employment creation was given positive impact, with marginal to low weight.
- The application may result in long term employment benefits due to the increased number of pokies and increased patronage of the facilities at the club. The commission was satisfied that 15 full time equivalent (FTE) positions will be created over the next five years, with these positions likely to be filled be local residents, based on existing hiring practices. There is likely to be a level of transferred employment from nearby gaming venues within Greater Geelong, however not sufficient to completely offset the creation of the 15 FTE positions.
Increased gaming competition in Greater Geelong was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.
- The application will increase the overall number of pokies in Greater Geelong by 30 from 1,292 to 1,322. However, the density will only increase from 6.6 to 6.7 pokies per 1000 adults, while player losses will increase from $599 to $602 per adult. This represents a negligible increase in pokies in Greater Geelong and the commission considered this provides no to marginal benefit.
Supply contracts and complementary expenditure was given positive impact, with no weight.
- The club provided no figures or evidence in relation to the economic benefit associated with supply contracts or complementary expenditure and did not directly rely on these impacts as a benefit. While increased patronage at the club could result in increased supply contracts and/or complementary expenditure, there is significant uncertainty that these benefits will increase economic activity in the local area as opposed to transferred activity within Greater Geelong.
Gaming expenditure associated with problem gambling was given negative impact, with marginal to low weight.
- The portion of new gaming expenditure attributable to problem gambling is an economic disbenefit. The club is located in a catchment area of mixed, yet generally lower, relative socio-economic disadvantage, with pockets of increased disadvantage and vulnerability to the impacts of problem gambling. The increased size of the gaming room at the club and its location in proximity to sensitive uses will increase the risk of problem gambling. However, the club's demonstrated commitment to RSG practices, together with the additional RSG measures proposed to be undertaken, will improve existing practices and partly address the increased risk of problem gambling in Greater Geelong.
Diversion of trade from other gaming venues was given negative impact, with marginal weight.
- The anticipated transfer rate of 83 per cent is expected to be spread across existing gaming venues in Greater Geelong, with four venues in particular likely to experience significant losses in revenue. Those venues are Lord of the Isles Tavern (-8.47%), Grovedale Hotel (-7.33%), Waurn Ponds Hotel (-7.17%) and Valley Inn Hotel (-6.25%). The commission considered that a transfer rate of this size is significant and this diversion of trade will have a detrimental economic impact on other venue operators in Greater Geelong.
SOCIAL IMPACT BENEFITS AND DISBENEFITS
In making this decision, the commission weighed the following social impact benefits and disbenefits.
Additional and improved services and facilities at the premises was given positive impact, with low weight.
- Social benefits that may be associated with the building works at the club include the addition of a new public sports bar, cafe lounge and community hub. There will also be limited social benefit in the refurbishment of existing facilities as it will modernise the venue and increase it attractiveness. However, these benefits may not be felt for in excess of five years due to these renovation works being contingent upon planning permission. The commission considered the increased welfare services, to be provided through the additional Welfare, Pensions and Advocacy Officer, are a significant and meaningful contribution by the club to its members and Greater Geelong generally.
Increased gaming opportunities for those who enjoy gaming was given positive impact, with marginal weight.
- The additional 30 pokies will increase gaming opportunities for patrons by enhancing the range and variety of machines available at the club for recreational players. However, the commission considered the large number of other gaming venues (25) and pokies (1,292) available in Greater Geelong mean there is an ease of access and high levels of consumer choice for anyone choosing to play the pokies. Accordingly, the commission considers this to be a negligible social benefit to the community and gave it marginal weight.
Increased community contributions (includes both economic and social benefits) was given positive impact, with no to marginal weight.
- An additional $30,000 will be distributed each year under the club's Schools Assistance Program, with the contributions to commence in 2020. As the club would likley make some of the these contributions each year, regardless of whether or not the additional pokies were installed, the commission gave this benefit no to marginal weight.
Possibility of increased incidence and the potential impact of problem gambling on the community (including family violence) was given negative impact, with low to moderate weight.
- A proportion of total gaming expenditure at the club will be associated with problem gambling with adverse impacts relating to health, jobs, finances, emotional states and relationships. Accordingly, a proportion of the $500,000 of new expenditure in the first 12 montsh will be associated with problem gambling, including all PGSI risk categories. The club is located in a catchment area of mixed, yet generally lower, relative socio-economic disadvantage, with pockets of increased disadvantage and vulnerability to the impacts of problem gambling. The increased size of the gaming room at the club and its location in proximity to sensitive uses will increase the risk of problem gambling. However, the club's demonstrated commitment to RSG practices, together with the additional RSG measures proposed to be undertaken, will improve existing practices and partly address the increased risk of problem gambling in Greater Geelong.
Community attitude was given negative impact, with marginal weight.
- In determining community attitude, the commission took into account the Council's intended role in which it represents the community interest, two community attitudinal surveys, correspondence supporting the application from four community groups and four individuals, and correspondence opposing the application from two community groups and 14 individuals. These submissions contained both general and specific concerns of the impact on the local community if the additional pokies were installed. The commission found there was an overall mixed, yet slightly more negative, attitude towards the additional pokies from within the Greater Geelong community.