Friday, 30 January 2009

Golf, Pokies, Ballarat and the RSL

It is this blogger's goal to stay focused on removing children from pokie places. Sometimes the pursuit of this goal leads to consideration of unexpected issues. The 10 pokies licensed to the Ballarat RSL leads to the big issue of the role of government in Australian society.
This is a picture of the front door of the Ballarat RSL. Click on the picture to see a larger image. This is a tiny pokie venue located in the Ballarat CBD. Notwithstanding, I fail to see any of the required warnings about prohibiting entry to minors. Because the venue was closed on the Saturday I visited Ballarat I could not have a look inside. This left me to wonder (but not do anything about) whether the Ballarat RSL was doing its small part to conduct pokie gambling in a responsible manner. I was going to give the Ballarat RSL a miss.

What changed is that the Ballarat RSL has applied for a further 23 pokie licenses for a total of 33 pokies. They will no longer be a tiny venue. Given the RSL's submission to the gambling license review this might be the start of a much larger pokie palace. One can speculate that this new RSL venue could be potentially managed by Australia's pokie giant; Woolworths. A Woolworth's associate already operates the Blue Bell in Wendouree.

Here's some background: The Victorian government declared that no more pokies will be licensed to the City of Ballarat. Recent applications put to the Gambling Commission for similarly distressed areas all feature a net reduction in pokies to improve the chances of success. The Ballarat RSL's application is no different. I was informed that the 29 licenses of the Buninyong Golf Club will cease if the Ballarat RSL's application succeeds. The result? A net reduction of 6 licenses in the City of Ballarat.

On the surface, this transfer and consequent reduction seems to be a good thing. Scratch that surface and its a bad thing.

What will happen is that pokies will be moved from a wealthier area to a poorer area. Research shows that the people least able to afford to pokie gamble are the ones most likely to pokie gamble. This will make worse the hardship in the areas already in need of help.

No doubt, there will be arguments that the reduction in the number of pokies will lessen hardship so that the net effect for the whole of the City is beneficial given the objectives and likely outcome of this particular pokie club license. This requires examination of the mission of the RSL:
To ensure that programs are in place for the well-being, care, compensation and commemoration of serving and ex-service Defence Force members and their dependants; and promote Government and community awareness of the need for a secure, stable and progressive Australia.
I do not dispute for a moment that this mission is a noble one. I will go further and say that it is an essential mission for all Australians to be responsible for the people who choose to devote their lives in military service.

Shouldn't this be a duty of our Federal government?

Why should the RSL have to stoop so low as to depend upon pokie losses in already distressed areas to perform this essential duty of care?

Unless someone in the Ballarat RSL just wants to run a big fancy pokie club. Like the palace that is the North Ballarat Sports Club.

No comments: