Monday, 6 April 2009

Ballarat RSL Decision Arrives

The VCGR has made its decision approving the extra pokies for the Ballarat RSL. My view is that the decision was made on bad facts. Have a look at this mapThe Commission made a finding that there was no economic difference between where the Ballarat RSL is located and where the pokies are coming from in Bunninyong. That just does not seem to be correct.

You can click here to read the decision
. Here's the relevant paragraphs:
43. In his report Mr Quick had included the latest SEIFA Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage which indicates that the City of Ballarat with a SEIFA score of 983 is ranked 32 out of 80 local government municipalities in Victoria, with a higher score meaning that a municipality is relatively less disadvantaged. At the Statistical Local Area level Ballarat Central, the SLA where the RSL is located is ranked at 61 out of 204, while Ballarat South where the Buninyong Golf Club is located is ranked at 56 of 204. Mr Quick concluded that this would indicate the area to which the egms are to be transferred was a slightly better off socio-economic area than Ballarat South from which the machines are to be transferred.

44. In this context the subsequent inspection of the Club premises and the surrounding environs suggests that the area is not one which demonstrates obvious disadvantage. It is close to but not within the main business and commercial district of Ballarat.

It seems that the Commission accepted evidence from this consultant, engaged by the Ballarat RSL that lumping all the communities in the South Ballarat statistical area was sound. This is not correct. Sebastopol and Bunninyong are two different communities. The Commission knows this from their 2005 decision refusing additional pokies in Sebastopol. In that case, they refused to grant even 5 more pokies and considered the Sebastopol area as its own distinct community.

Lumping Sebastopol and Bunninyong together will increase the 'disadvantage' score and gives a false sense of the Bunninyong community being more disadvantaged than the area surrounding the Ballarat RSL.

To underline my point, have a look at this recent article in the Ballarat Courier which reports that Bunninyong has the highest income of any community in Ballarat.

The Commission also passed over my submission as to the increased density of pokies, well beyong state government guidelines, that will result in the area in which the Ballarat RSL is located. Here's what they said:
"the Commission is mindful that there are already a number of venues located in the Ballarat Central SLA and the relocation of the egms to this SLA will lead to an increase in density in that SLA. However the Commission is of the view that the net reduction in the total number of egms in the City of Ballarat together with the removal of one gaming venue from the City militates
against this issue being of concern."
The Commission mis-interpreted their own rules. Section 3.4.20(1)(c), provides:
"(c) if the proposed amendment will result in an increase in the number of gaming machines permitted in an approved venue, the Commission is satisfied that the net economic and social impact of the amendment will not be detrimental to the well-being of the community of the municipal district in which the approved venue is located;"
I added the blue colour and the italics. What this says is that the are required to consider "the community of the municipal district". This is by any understanding a smaller area than the whole of the local government area. Usually the Commission does this. They did not here. They seemed to have made a finding about the local government area as a whole rather than their proper focus on the community of the venue itself.

Scroll back up to the map and have another look at the density that will result by the VCGR adding even more pokies to Ballarat City.

The Commission is wrong. They should admit their mistake and re-issue a new decision refusing the grant of further pokies.

Once these pokies are installed and the improvements made, pokie losses will increase in Ballarat. And so will the hardship that accompanies those losses.

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