On 29 and 30 March 2017, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation heard an application from Highlands Hotel Craigieburn Pty Ltd to increase the number of pokies at Highlands Hotel in the City of Hume from 60 to 80.
The City of Hume opposed the application but did not appear at the hearing.
On 28 April 2017, the commission granted the application.
The commission found there would be a neutral social and economic impact on the wellbeing of the Hume community if the application was approved, and hence the 'no net detriment' test was met.
The commission's approval is subject to the following conditions:
- upgrade works for the gaming room at Highland Hotel must be completed before the additional 20 pokies commence operation
- Highlands Hotel will provide the City of Hume an annual cash contribution of $50,000 each year for five years, with the contributions to be used to provide services and facilities to residents of Hume or donated to not-for-profit community groups and sporting organisations providing services and facilities to residents of Hume. If the City of Hume is not willing to participate in the process, Highlands Hotel must establish a separate process to the satisfaction of the commission where suitably qualified independent people determine how the contributions are allocated
- within six months of the pokies commencing operation, Highland Hotel must arrange for a review of its responsible service of gaming (RSG) practices to be conducted by an external expert approved by the commission. After the review, Highlands Hotel must provide a report to the commission, together with the steps it has taken to implement any recommended actions from the review. Highlands Hotel must arrange for two further reviews to be conducted on an annual basis, meaning that three reviews of RSG practices must be conducted in total.
In making this determination, the commission weighed the following economic impact benefits and disbenefits.
Expenditure on capital works was given low weight.Community contributions was given moderate weight.Additional employment was given marginal weight.Complementary expenditure was given marginal weight.Diversion of trade from other gaming venues was given no weight.Gaming expenditure not associated with problem gambling was given low weight.
- Renovations to the gaming room, estimated at $975,000, are to be made. However, it was not clear what proportion of this expenditure would be spent on goods and services in Hume.
- Highlands Hotel will provide the City of Hume an annual cash contribution of $50,000 each year for five years, with the contributions to be used to provide services and facilities to residents of Hume or donated to not-for-profit community groups and sporting organisations providing services and facilities to Hume residents. Highlands Hotel also proposed to continue its current community contributions of providing discounted meals, award dinners, provision of a community bus and ad hoc payments to other community groups. However, the commission was not satisfied that these forms of contribution are dependent on the approval of more pokies and did not consider them in weighing up the application.
- The additional pokies will result in the equivalent of two full-time positions being employed at the hotel.
- There was evidence of groups coming from outside Hume to the hotel by bus to eat at the buffet and play the pokies. However, the hotel was unable to accurately determine the level of such complementary expenditure.
- While it was estimated that some of the additional pokies expenditure would be transferred from the Craigieburn Sporting Club and other pokies venues in Hume, the diversion of trade was likely to be minor.
- The portion of new gaming expenditure not attributable to problem gambling is an economic benefit. The commission considered it likely the majority of new expenditure would not be associated with problem gambling. There was also evidence that a considerable proportion of the new expenditure would be from gamblers outside of Hume.
Gaming expenditure associated with problem gambling was given moderate weight.
- While Hume residents have a higher level of disadvantage and financial vulnerability, the commission considered that Craigieburn residents have a relatively average level of advantage and disadvantage. Further, the population growth and zoning in the area is likely to improve the Social Economic Index for Areas outcome over time. The commission also considered the hotel's responsible service of gaming practices, the size of the venue, its closeness to a shopping centre, and submissions received from community organisations in determining there is a risk of increased problem gambling expenditure.
In making this determination, the commission weighed the following social impact benefits and disbenefits.
Increased gaming opportunities for those who enjoy gaming was given marginal weight.Improved facilities enabling a greater range of services was given no weight.Social benefit derived from increased community contributions was given marginal weight.
- As the hotel was sometimes crowded with patrons from buses who could not find a spare machine, the additional pokies would better serve the needs of gaming patrons.
- The only renovations at the hotel are to be made to the gaming room.
- There was only limited evidence available on which community and sporting groups would benefit from the proposed contributions and the impact on local community organisations.
The possibility of an increased incidence and potential impact of problem gambling on the community was given moderate weight.Community attitude was given low weight.Increase to gambling-related crime and social disturbance was given marginal weight.Increased exposure of children to gambling activity was given no weight.
- The commission was satisfied there was a disbenefit in the potential for increased risk of problem gambling. However, the risk was reduced due to the hotel being located in Craigieburn and not another area of Hume.
- The commission was satisfied that the community survey responses suggested there was a consistent and sustained negative attitude in the area surrounding the hotel and that was likely to reflect the attitude of Hume residents generally. However, the commission also noted that the level of community dissatisfaction did not appear to be to the same extent as other cases, such as Romsey Hotel.
- Having regard to the general body of research, the commission considered that additional pokies may increase the risk of gambling-related crime and social disturbance (including family violence). However, the commission was not satisfied that the available evidence establishes a causal link between pokies and family violence that would support a finding that increasing the number of pokies at the Highlands Hotel would result in an increase in the levels of family violence.
- As the entrances and the location of the gaming room will not change, the impact of gambling exposure on children was given no weight for the purposes of the 'no net detriment' test. However, the commission did consider that the hotel should take additional steps to limit the visibility of the gaming room from the foyer.