Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions about the regulation of pokies in Victoria. In particular, the role community can play in the pokies application process is explained and information is provided on pokies licenses.
How is gambling regulated in Victoria?
The laws governing the conduct of gambling, the licensing of the gambling industry and the enforcement of licensees' legal obligations are set out in the following legislation:
The Gambling Regulation Act 2003 (Vic) is the main piece of legislation governing gambling in Victoria. It covers the legal operation of gaming machines, wagering and betting competitions, lotteries, keno games, bingo, raffles, and some aspects of interactive gaming not already governed by Commonwealth legislation under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.
The Act also gives the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation the power to regulate gambling and liquor in Victoria. The commission is an independent decision-making authority accountable to the Minister and Parliament of Victoria.
The commission is responsible for gambling and liquor licensing and undertakes compliance activities to prevent and detect breaches, while also informing and educating industry and the public about regulatory practices and requirements.
How can I have a say in what pokies are in my area?
In order to install new or additional pokie machines, a gaming venue needs (1) a license from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) and (2) a planning permit issued by their local Council.
1. Being involved in the licensing process
Before granting a venue a licence for new or additional pokie machines the VCGLR will hear written submissions and presentations from the local council as the representative of the community.
If you wish your council to take a position on an application for a licence to the VCGLR you should contact your local council or councillor(s). Note that councils usually have 60 days to respond to applications.
2. Being involved in the planning process
When an application for a planning permit is lodged with a local Council, the gaming venue may be required to send letters notifying neighbours of their proposal or posting an advertisement in their venue for a 14 day period.
If you object to a proposal for the installation or addition of pokie machines in your community, you can have your say and file a submission with your local Council. You can object as an individual or as a representative of a local community group that will be adversely affected by the planning proposal.
Although objections can be filed with the Council up until when the decision is made, objections are usually filed within the 14 day advertising period.
If the Council approves the planning permit you can then file an application for review of this decision in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) under the Planning and Environment List. In this review, VCAT considers the social and economic impacts on the community of the gaming venue's proposal.
To object to VCAT about the Council's decision, you must fill out an objector's application form and send it to VCAT within 21 days of receiving the 'Notice of Decision to Grant a Permit' from your local Council.
To date there has been one successful application at VCAT overturning a Council's decision to grant a planning permit to a gaming venue. Please see Rennie v Darebin CC for further information.
How many pokies are there in Victoria?
The limit on pokie machines in Victoria was capped is 30,000 machines. As of 3 April 2015, 26,403 pokie machines operated at clubs and hotels in Victoria, including 18,760 located in the Melbourne metropolitan area. Additional to these pokies are 2,628 pokie machines at Crown Casino.
Therefore, in total, Victoria had 29,031 operational pokie machines at 30 April 2015 (Crown Melbourne, Facts and Figures).
Who determines the opening hours for gambling areas in gambling venues?
Opening hours vary from venue to venue and will depend on the provisions of the liquor license. In regards to gambling areas in gambling venues, apart from the Crown Casino which is permitted to operate 24 hours a day, gambling is not permitted for more than 20 hours a day.
All gambling venues have a liquor licence so their opening hours will depend on what their individual liquor licence allows. Although gambling is permitted for 20 hours a day, a venue may not hold a liquor license for this many hours. In this case, the lesser number of trading hours will apply.
Can a venue change its current pokies for new ones?
Yes, a venue operator can purchase new machines with different themes or games to replace existing ones provided the new machines are models approved by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR).
The operator cannot increase the number of machines in the venue without getting permission from the VCGLR.
If a venue operator acquires new gaming machines but does not install the machines in the gaming area, then under sections 3.5.15(1A) and (b) of the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 the machines must be stored in an area approved by the VCGLR.
Likewise if an operator replaces the old machines with new ones the old ones must be stored in an approved area until disposed of or sold.
If a venue operator holding gaming machine entitlements wishes to sell a gaming machine, they may do so under section 3.4.1(ac) of the Gambling Regulation Act 2003.
A venue operator with no gaming machine entitlements requires permission of the VCGLR under s 3.2.2(2B) of the Gambling Regulation Act 2003, to be in possession of a gaming machine, to sell a gaming machine, or to dispose of a gaming machine.
How long are pokies licenses in Victoria granted for?
To operate pokies in Victoria, a club or hotel must hold a venue opertaor licence.
A license to operate pokie machines is granted for a maximum 10 year period.
Venue operators are responsible for applying to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) to renew their license before it expires.
Why are there pokies venues in shopping strips or shopping centres?
Pokies are prohibited in shopping strips and shopping centres under clauses 52.28-4 to 52.28-5 of the Victoria Planning Provision (VPP).
However, pokies in the Capital City Zone (aka the Melbourne CBD) or in venues approved prior to 18 October 2006 are allowed to continue operating even if the venue is located in a shopping strip or shopping centre. Some of the venues with the highest losses continue to be those in shopping centres.
These venues, however, cannot increase the number of machines they have above the number permitted before 18 October 2006.
Are new pokies venues allowed in shopping strips or shopping centres?
Yes and no.
The installation or use of gaming machines in a strip shopping centre is prohibited under clause 52.28-5 of the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP). Therefore, in general new pokies venues are not permitted in shopping strips or shopping centres.
However, the Capital City Zone is exempt from this prohibition. Therefore, new pokies venues may be permitted in shopping strips or centres in the Melbourne CBD.
A strip shopping centre is defined by meeting all of the criteria below:
- It Is in an area zoned for commercial use
- It consists of a least two separate buildings on at least two separate adjoining lots
- It is an area where a significant proportion of the buildings are shops, and
- It is an area where a significant proportion of the lots abut a road that the public has access to.