Clubs call for pokies assurance

By Ewen McRae

More than 1300 people have signed petitions calling on Brimbank council to allow two local sporting clubs to continue to operate poker machines on council land.

St Albans Sports Club and Green Gully Soccer Club both want assurances their venues will not be affected by the council’s new electronic gaming machines (EGMs) policy now being developed.

Both petitions requested: “That council provides assurances that the new Brimbank City Council EGM Gaming Policy continues to allow the St Albans Sports Club and Green Gully Soccer Club Ltd to operate EGMs on Brimbank City Council land, thus allowing these clubs to continue and extend their community to benefit.”

The petition at Green Gully was signed by 375 people, while St Albans Sports Club attracted 969 petitioners.

Sports club chairman Garry Keenan said it was vital that they be allowed to continue to operate their current number of EGMs.

“We are very much a community club, and do a lot for the community … our major concern is not being in a position to do all that community work,” Mr Keenan said. “We sponsor a number of clubs, look after the ground, run very low-cost bingo, provide a free courtesy bus, and that will disappear if we can’t operate as we currently do.

“Those pokie machines will then go to a hotel that won’t be doing all that for the community.”

The consultation period for the draft policy ended in February. Council’s acting community director Lynley Dumble said the focus of the new policy would be on harm minimisation.

“Council’s Draft Brimbank Electronic Gambling Policy proposes a public health and harm minimisation approach,” Ms Dumble said. “This approach recognises that gambling is a legal activity, but seeks to reduce the potential harm that gambling can cause to individuals, family members and the community.

“Council does not control approvals of EGMs or their operation. EGMs are regulated by the state government, which sets the allowable number of machines for each local government area and oversees gaming licence approvals for individual venues.

“The … policy would evolve the way council works with all gaming venues, to encourage them to implement harm-reduction measures.”