Thursday, 5 February 2009

A Hot Day in Ballarat

Today in Ballarat was over 30. Saturday is expected to be over 42. Here's my diary on what happened today.

1. Pokie venue photos; Arrived too early for my appointment so I took some photos of the two venues I have not recorded at all for PokieWatch.org so I thought I would use the time to take some photos. At the Red Lion Hotel (part of a pokie/motel venue near the Sovereign Hill tourist site) someone came out and asked me what I was doing after I had taken some photos. I told him I was taking photos.

2. Meeting with City of Ballarat; Local government with all its pluses and minuses is the closest layer of our three layers (local, state, federal) to reflecting the electorate. On the drive up I heard ABC 774's Jon Faine devastating a Geelong Councillor about his fellow councillors' records. In Ballarat I heard firsthand about the sophisticated compromises the council made in approving the Ballarat RSL's application for more pokies. Tough decisions were made in the best interests of the community.

3. Cold calling 3BA; The PokieAct.org 30 second spot was designed to be broadcast both as a TV ad and a radio ad. Given the relatively self contained nature of the Ballarat community and the effectiveness of the radio medium in reaching people, I dropped off a CD of the ad at 3BA and met with a sales person to discuss purchasing a schedule.

4. Meeting with the co-ordinator of a terrific research project being conducted by the University of Ballarat. One of the things missing in the research about pokies is real data (rather than speculative guesses) about its impact upon the community. The University of Ballarat has received a grant for a three year study to look at a community that has no pokies and then gets a pokie venue. I met with Associate Professor John MacDonald. Click here to read more about the project. They are still looking to hire a researcher. I suggested they look at the emerging Melbourne suburb of Point Cooke which will soon have a Geelong Cats pokie club.

5. Having a look at the Ballarat Leagues Club. The pokie room has a separate entrance and I was sincerely hoping that they took full advantage by excluding children from pokie sights, sounds and promotion. I was disappointed to find that their Kid's Corner is a glass enclosed area where children playing can look directly into the pokies area, see the promotions at its entrance and hear the pokie sounds in the bistro.

6. An excellent adventure with the The Courier of Ballarat. The reporter and I turned up at the Red Lion Inn, clipboard in hand, ready to have a look. We were met at the door by Dave Canny, the nominee of the venue operator and manager of the premises. We were told that we were not allowed to enter. Dave gave me his card and invited me to make an appointment to have a look. He indicated that he would make his staff available to talk with me. While I have been asked to leave two other venues (they had policies against people taking notes), this is the first time that I was not even allowed in the door.
The reporter and I then drove to the Ballarat RSL. I had a look inside on my own. What a lovely old building. I'm not sure where those extra 23 pokies area going to be located. It's so sad that their mission of caring for returned servive men and women has to depend upon the pokies for sustenance.

7. Coming full circle with the Red Lion Hotel. Back in Melbourne, I ended the day as I started it with concern about the Red Lion. Rather than disrupt their staff, I invited Dave to fill out his own response to the usual PokieWatch.org concerns. I promised to reporduce everything he gave me without alteration. My agenda? This would be a very welcome first for PokieWatch.org. That is, the first time a report was generated by the venue itself.

Postscript
Dave responded with his own report on the Red Lion. You can read my questions and see his responses by clicking here.

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