Commission refuses application for additional 20 pokies at Noble Park Football Social Club

Thursday, 27 July 2017

On 13 and 14 June 2017, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation heard an application from Noble Park Football Social Club to increase the number of pokies at its clubrooms, located in the City of Greater Dandenong, from 50 to 70.

The City of Greater Dandenong opposed the application and appeared at the hearing.

On 21 July 2017, the commission refused the application.

After considering the material before it, the commission was not satisfied that the social and economic impact of the application would not be detrimental to the well-being of the Greater Dandenong community. Accordingly, the 'no net detriment' test was not met.

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

Benefits:

  • Expenditure on capital works was given no to marginal weight.
    • The club proposed to undertake renovations and building works at an estimated cost of $4.75 million. While the expenditure on capital works is significant, there is uncertainty on how much of the goods and services will be spent in Greater Dandenong.
  • The two forms of community contributions were given marginal weight and no weight.
    • The club proposed to make a cash contribution of $75,000 each year for five years to CatholicCare to provide addiction counselling for residents of Greater Dandenong. However, there was no evidence from CatholicCare setting out the suggested contribution arrangements, including how the arrangements would be monitored.
    • The club also proposed to make cash and in-kind contributions of at least $523,744 per year to a range of community and sporting clubs in Greater Dandenong. As the club already distributes this amount to community and sporting groups in Greater Dandenong, these contributions are not dependent on the additional pokies being approved and they were given no weight.
  • Additional employment was given no weight and marginal weight.
    • There was no evidence of short term employment benefits associated with renovations and building works at the clubrooms.
    • Following completion of the renovations and building works, the equivalent of 5.5 full time positions will be created at the club (2 in the gaming room, 2 in the cafe and 1.5 in the kitchen/bistro).While this will provide a positive economic impact, the impact would be insignificant to Greater Dandenong at large.
  • Complementary expenditure was given no to marginal weight.
    • The club expects an increase of $200,000 in complementary expenditure in the first year, from increased meals in the bistro, beverages in the sports bar and expenditure in the cafe. However, there was limited evidence on how this would increase supply contracts for food and beverage from suppliers in Greater Dandenong.
  • Gaming expenditure not associated with problem gambling was given marginal weight.
    • The portion of new expenditure not attributable to problem gambling is an economic benefit. The commission considered that, on balance, this benefit should only be given a marginal weight.

Disbenefit:

  • Gambling expenditure associated with problem gambling was given considerable weight.
    • Greater Dandenong residents have a high level of relative disadvantage and financial vulnerability, which makes them highly susceptible to gambling-related harms. Noble Park exhibits a high level of disadvantage and there is a risk of increased problem gambling expenditure if the additional pokies were approved. This is considered a negative economic impact.

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

Benefits:

  • Increased gaming opportunities for those who enjoy gaming was given no to marginal weight.
    • As Greater Dandenong currently has 958 pokies at 15 venues (including 50 pokies at Noble Park Football Social Club), there is already an ease of access and high levels of consumer choice for anyone choosing to play pokies.
  • Improved facilities enabling a greater range of facilities was given marginal to low weight.
    • Overall, the commission considered there would be no substantial change to the range of entertainment on offer at the club. Also, the service offer would be limited by hours of trading of the non-gaming areas compared to the hours that the gaming room is open.
  • Purchase of entitlements from the Doxa Youth Foundation was given no to marginal weight.
    • As part of the proposed deal to purchase 20 gaming machine entitlements from Doxa, the club will provide $30,000 per year for three years to Doxa for expenditure in Greater Dandenong. While this will be a social benefit to the community and is dependent on the additional pokies being approved, the amount of money is considered relatively small and it was unclear how it would be spent in Greater Dandenong by Doxa.
  • Social benefit derived from increased community contributions was given marginal weight.
    • As limited information was provided to the commission in respect to community contributions, the social impact on local community organisations was considered marginally positive.
  • Backfilling of gaming machine entitlements was given no weight.
    • Noble Park Football Social Club submitted that the approval of 20 additional pokies at the clubrooms would enable it to purchase 20 gaming machine entitlements from Doxa. This would result in only 11 entitlements being left available for hotels to use in Greater Dandenong. The commission considered the prospect of another venue in Greater Dandenong, including a hotel, using these 20 entitlements if the application was refused was merely speculative and gave it no weight.

Disbenefits:

  • Possibility if an increased incidence and potential impact of problem gambling on the community (including family violence) was given moderate to considerable weight.
    • The commission was not satisfied that the available evidence establishes a causal link between pokies and family violence which would support a finding that approving 20 additional pokies at the club would result in an increase in existing levels of family violence. However, having regard to this body of research, the commission considered that approval of 20 additional pokies may result in a more acute risk of an increase in gambling-related crime and social disturbance (including family violence) in Greater Dandenong. The commission was not satisfied this risk would be acceptably mitigated by measures proposed to be taken by the club.
  • Community attitude was given marginal to low weight.
    • The commission took into account Greater Dandenong Council's role in representing the community interest, as well as submissions made by people in the community. The commission found that all of the submissions addressed the application and expressed a negative attitude to an increase in the number of pokies at the club. In particular, the focus of concern was that additional pokies at the club would likely increase harm caused to local residents who are already experiencing and dealing with prevalent gambling-related harm. The commission considered it appropriate to attribute a marginal to low weight to this negative social impact.

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