Monday, 2 February 2009

My email to the Ballarat RSL

It has been my practice to try and write to every venue I post on PokieWatch.org. While I have not yet been to the Ballarat RSL. Here's the email I sent them:
Dear Mr. Keating,

I write to inform you that I have created a website, PokieWatch.org, with the goal of assisting poker machine venue operators and the public to work together to ensure best possible responsible gaming practices. The web site uses Wikipedia like software to promote the collaborative assembly of information on how self-regulatory practices are being implemented.

My objective is that you will be assisted by this endeavour. I invite you and your venue staff to make their own contributions. As noted in the recent decision of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Macedon Ranges Shire Council v. Romsey Hotel P/L, gambling is a valid activity for many Victorians. Yet this must be tempered by the need to ensure, by the best means possible, that responsible gambling practices are being implemented.

The web page for your venue can be found at http://www.pokiewatch.org/page/Ballarat+RSL. Owing to the fact that I visited your premises on Saturday, I was unable to have a look inside. It is my intention to do so in the next few weeks.

Please note that PokieWatch.org is a not for profit endeavour. Participation is open to all and is free. My observations are largely intended to be factual rather than suggesting standards not presently in place in Victoria. If you are of the view that the observations on the web site contain any inaccuracies, you can either email me at PokieWatch@yahoo.com and I will add your comments, join the wiki and add or modify what is set out on the web page, or begin a thread on the web page. You can also add you own description of your responsible gambling practices to the web page.

If you are of the view that it would be of assistance to you, I am happy to visit with you in Ballarat to discuss responsible pokie gambling practices and, in particular the possibility of excluding children from the venue.

I am informed that an application has been made by the Ballarat RSL for an additional 23 pokies which will be housed at your Lyons Street premises and, if approved, that the Buninyong Golf Club will cease to operate any pokies. The hearing is set for the end of February. While you are obviously under no obligation to respond I would be grateful to know:

1. Would you be prepared to enter into an agreement with the City of Ballarat as a condition of approval to:
  • Ensure that responsible gaming practices are put into place and maintained at the Ballarat RSL upon terms mutually acceptable terms
  • Establish a community benefit fund jointly administered between the City and your club to ensure that net proceeds from pokie losses are expended to the benefit of the people of the City of Ballarat? There is good precedent for this structure already working within the Shire of Macedon Ranges. I would be happy to provide you with contact information.
2. Notwithstanding #1, would you agree to the exclusion of children from the entirety of the building where pokie gambling is conducted? This step would show leadership by drawing the line with our children in an effort to begin to curtail Australia's addiction to this harmful form of gambling. In this regard, please note the views of Professor Charles Livingstone of Monash University "One of the ways in which pokie gambling is 'normalised' - made to seem like an everyday, average sort of activity - is by exposing young children to poker machine venues in the company of family and friends. Just as smoking, drinking and poor eating habits are passed on by example, allowing children to accompany adults to gaming venues, and indeed encouraging this by providing play rooms, free meals and so on, is likely to result in the development of problems later in life. Pokie gambling is a potentially dangerous activity and children should not be encouraged to think it's just another harmless pastime."

3. The pokies appear to be being moved from a relatively wealthy part of the City of Ballarat to a relatively poor part of the region. What measures are you independently putting in place to assist the people within your catchment area to ensure that harm from the inevitable local gambling losses is minimised?

I would be grateful if you could pass on my thoughts to Mr Wilkins who is noted as the approved nominee of the license.
I copied this email to the City of Ballarat and the local newspaper. My view is that the more discussion and the more the public knows; the better the public will be served. The email of the Ballarat RSL is rslbalrt@ncable.net.au

Any response I get will be posted.

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