Commission grants application for additional 10 pokies at Portarlington Golf Club

Monday, 30 October 2017

On 26 September 2017, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation heard an application from Portarlington Golf Club Inc to increase the number of pokies at the Portarlington Golf Club in the City of Greater Geelong from 55 to 65.

The City of Greater Geelong opposed the application but did not appear at the hearing.

On 20 October 2017, the commission granted the application.

The commission found there would be a slightly positive social and economic impact on the well-being of the Greater Geelong 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 at the club must be substantially completed within two years after the commencement of the operation of the additional 10 pokies. If the upgrade works are not substantially completed within two years. the approval of the additional 10 pokies will lapse
  • the club must establish the Portarlington Golf Club Community Contributions' Fund, which will make an annual cash contribution of $10,000 (increased each year by the increase in CPI) for as long as the additional 10 pokies operate at the club. The club will establish a Committee, consisting of a representative from the club, the community and the council, which will determine distributions from the Fund. These contributions will be allocated each year to not-for-profit community and sporting organisations in the City of Greater Geelong. These cash contributions are additional to the existing $10,725 cash contributions made each year by the Portarlington Golf Club
  • suitable screening must be installed so that minors seated at the bistro do not have direct visual contact with the gaming room.

Economic impact benefits and disbenefits

In making this determination, the commission weighed the following economic impact benefits and disbenefits:

Benefits

  • Expenditure on capital works was given positive impact of low weight.
    • Renovations to the club, at an estimated cost of $1.5 million, are to be made. The amount of expenditure is significant and a proportion will occur within the City of Greater Geelong. However the commission is mindful not to double count the benefits associated with the renovation expenditure, having regard to the estimated employment impacts and the social impact that may result from the improved facilities.
  • Complementary expenditure was given positive impact of marginal weight.
    • There is a potential benefit from additional tourists coming from outside Greater Geelong, with an anticipated 10 per cent (or $140,344) increase in bistro sales. However, this new complementary expenditure would be a small amount in the context of Greater Geelong as a whole.
  • Additional employment was given no to marginal weight, and marginal weight.
    • The short term employment benefits associated with the renovations were considered as part of the expenditure on capital works (see above). The commission gave this benefit no the marginal weight. The longer term employment benefits would see 2.3 EFT staff employed (1 full time and 2 casual positions), with these staff sourced from Greater Geelong. The commission gave this benefit marginal weight.
  • Community contributions was given positive impact of low weight.
    • The additional community contributions will have a positive economic impact on not-for-profit community and sporting organisations in Greater Geelong.
  • Gaming expenditure not associated with problem gambling was given marginal to low weight.
    • The portion of new gaming expenditure not attributable to problem gambling is an economic benefit. The commission considered that it was likely the majority of new expenditure will not be associated with problem gambling, and that a considerable proportion of this will come from patrons living outside Greater Geelong.
  • Increased gaming competition in the City of Greater Geelong was given no weight.
    • There is estimated to be a low transfer rate of 10 per cent from other gaming venues in Greater Geelong. Taking into account the number of additional pokies is small compared to the overall market in Greater Geelong, as well as the location of the club, the commission considered there will be no substantive increase in gaming competition.
  • Increased tourism in the City of Greater Geelong was given positive impact of marginal weight.
    • The commission considered the club's improved facilities have the potential to attract and increase tourism spend in Greater Geelong. However, the commission was careful not to double count the impact of complementary expenditure (see above). It also considered the location of the club will only result in a small increase in spend by tourists in other parts of Greater Geelong.

Disbenefits

  • Gambling expenditure associated with problem gambling was given negative impact of low weight.
    • The portion of new gambling expenditure attributable to problem gambling is an economic disbenefit. While the commission accepted residents around the club have a level of disadvantage and financial vulnerability that would make them susceptible to gambling-related harms, it considered evidence that, during peak times, the additional pokies would likely be used by tourists from outside Greater Geelong.
  • Diversion of trade from other gaming venues was given no weight to negative impact.
    • It was estimated that 10 per cent of the additional pokies expenditure will be transferred by other gaming venues in Greater Geelong, while a further 10 per cent will be transferred from gaming venues in other LGAs. The diversion of trade from other gaming venues is considered to be minor.
  • Diversion of trade from non-gaming businesses was given economic impact of marginal weight.
    • The commission considered it was difficult to determine the amount of money diverted from local non-gaming businesses.

Social impact benefits and disbenefits

In making this determination, the commission weighed the following social impact benefits and disbenefits:

Benefits

  • Increased gaming opportunities for those who enjoy gaming was given positive impact with no to marginal weight.
    • Given the current number of pokies in Greater Geelong, as well as the likely use of the additional machines by tourists, the commission considered there would be negligible positive social impacts on residents of Greater Geelong.
  • Improved facilities enabling a greater range of services was given positive impact of marginal weight.
    • The renovations to the club will provide better facilities through the expansion of the bistro and the creation of a soft lounge. The commission considered these improvements will provide a benefit to the local community, but the application was put on the basis that the renovations will largely improve the club's ability to attract and provide facilities for the increasing tourism industry.
  • Social benefit derived from increased community contributions was given a positive impact of low weight.
    • The club will make additional cash contributions of $10,000 each year to not-for-profit community and sporting organisations in the City of Greater Geelong. The distribution of these contributions will have a positive social impact on community and sporting groups operating in Greater Geelong.

Disbenefits

  • The possibility of an increased incidence and potential impact of problem gambling was given a negative impact of marginal weight.
    • The commission accepts that there is a potential for a negative social impact through possible increased problem gambling expenditure. However, the commission considered the risk of increased incidence and potential impact of problem gambling on the community from this application is less than would otherwise be the case due to the location of the club in Greater Geelong, the responsible service of gaming practices at the club, and the high proportion of non-locals using the pokies during peak times.
  • Community attitude was given negative impact with no to marginal weight.
    • A small number of community survey responses were made, which suggested a negative attitude in small portions of the community. Due to the small number of responses, the commission was not persuaded that these views represent the views of the Greater Geelong community generally.
  • Increased exposure of children to gambling activity was given no weight,
    • The commission noted that minors seated in the bistro have direct visual and auditory contact with the gaming room. The club has stated it will install suitable screening to address this issue, as well as reducing the number of Keno screens in the bistro area. As the club will make changes regardless of the outcome of the application, the commission gave this issue no weight.

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