On 21 November 2016, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation heard an application from Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch Inc to increase the number of pokies at Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch in the City of Banyule from 83 to 103.
The City of Banyule opposed the application and appeared at the hearing.
The commission was invited to consider the additional 20 pokies proposed to operate at Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch were to be relocated from Bundoora Bowling Club, which is another gaming venue operated by Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch Inc in the City of Banyule. Consequently, there would be no net increase in the number of pokies operating in the local government area.
On 21 December 2016, the commission granted the application.
The commission found there would be a neutral social and economic impact on the wellbeing of the Banyule 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 Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch must be completed before the additional 20 pokies commence operation
- refurbishment works at the Bundoora Bowling Club must be substantially completed to the satisfaction of the commission within 12 months after the additional 20 pokies commence operation
- Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch Inc must renew its lease at Bundoora Bowling Club until 2022
- Bundoora Bowling Club must remain a non-gaming venue while the additional 20 pokies are operating at Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch.
In making this determination, the commission weighed the following economic impact benefits and disbenefits.
Community contributions was given no weight.Additional employment was given marginal weight.Complementary expenditure was given no weight.Gaming expenditure not associated with problem gambling was given marginal weight.
- While the commission recognised the Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch is a non-profit organisation that makes important contributions to the community, additional contributions were either not considered to result from this application or have been assessed as an economic benefit elsewhere.
- There will be an increase in employment with the Aged Care Coordinator moving from part-time to full-time employment and the Welfare Officer from a volunteer to paid part-time. Although it is proposed that two full-time equivalent positions will be created at Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch, this increase will be offset by a decrease in employment at Bundoora Bowling Club when the pokies are removed from those premises. No evidence was provided on employment benefits from the refurbishment of Bundoora Bowling Club.
- There was no direct evidence of new complementary expenditure resulting from this application, as a substantial proportion of expenditure will be the result of transferred expenditure from Bundoora Bowling Club and other venues in Banyule.
- The portion of new gaming expenditure not attributable to problem gambling is an economic benefit. The anticipated level of new gaming expenditure is expected to be low, while demographics of the surrounding area and patrons of the venue, planned improvements to the gaming room and Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch's approach to responsible service of gaming will mitigate the impact.
The possibility of increased incidence and impact of problem gambling was given marginal weight.
- The portion of new gaming expenditure attributable to problem gambling is an economic disbenefit. Problem gambling associated with this application is considered to be low risk due to the low level of anticipated new gaming expenditure and the socio-economic characteristics of the area. The commission noted that gaming expenditure at the venue has recently increased compared to a general decrease across Banyule, and considered that some portion of this would be associated with problem gambling.
In making this determination, the commission weighed the following social impact benefits and disbenefits.
The transition of Bundoora Bowling Club to a non-gaming venue, along with its refurbishment and extension of lease, was given moderate weight.Community contributions/benefit was given marginal weight.Increased gaming opportunities for those who enjoy gaming was given no weight.
- The lease for Bundoora Bowling Club is to be extended and it will be refurbished and operate as a non-gaming venue. The refurbishments will be limited in value but will result in some improvements to the facilities, making this venue more attractive to the community in general.
- Additional benefit will result from the Aged Care Coordinator moving from part-time to full-time employment and the Welfare Officer from a volunteer to paid part-time. This will enable the services currently provided by these two people to be enhanced. While the additional 20 pokies will result in Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch becoming more financially viable to support its ability to make community contributions, generally these contributions are not considered to result directly from the application.
- Although the additional 20 pokies will provide a wider range of gaming opportunities at Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch, this is balanced against the fact that these pokies will be transferred between venues within Banyule. The moderate level of current use of pokies at Watsonia RSL Sub-Branch, together with the moderate anticipated new expenditure, will limit the extent of this impact.
The possibility of an increased incidence and impact of problem gambling on the community was given low weight.A decrease in community wellbeing/negative community attitude to the application was given no weight.
- The incidence of problem gambling is anticipated to increase due to new gaming expenditure and the large number of pokies (103) at the one venue, However, this is mitigated by a number of factors, including: a decrease in the number of pokies at Bundoora Bowling Club; the low level of anticipated new expenditure; the demographics of the surrounding area and patrons of the venue; planned improvements to the gaming room; and Wasonia RSL Sub-Branch's approach to responsible service of gaming.
- The overall wellbeing of the community is a relevant consideration. The commission noted the opposition of the local council to the application but considered no evidence was provided of the attitudes of local community members specifically in relation to the application.
See our infographic on the City of Banyule and compare its pokies statistics with other councils across Victoria.