Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Courier in Ballarat

The editorial of the 27 July issue of the Ballarat Courier provides a proper perspective on the pokies issue that should be followed elsewhere. I have reproduced it below.

It also sends a clear message to Ballarat Responsible Gambling Committee chairman Councillor Des Hudson. I blogged about his misinformation and his need to apologise to the Ballarat community on 26 March. I wish he was right and I was wrong but, unfortunately the reverse is the situation.
How much is too much spent on pokie machines?

THE amount of money spent on the pokies in Ballarat is considerable and, it would appear, not on a par with other regional centres.
Early figures from the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation show $57.5 million went through this municipality's gaming machines.

Based on the commission's population projections for 2007, this was an expenditure of $843 for every adult.

This compares poorly to Bendigo's per adult spend of $621, Geelong's $737 and Shepparton's $666.

Of the big regional municipalities the City of Latrobe fares worse than Ballarat, with pokie spending of $1082 per adult.

This is not to say people don't derive pleasure from gambling on pokie machines. Undoubtedly there are many people who would approach a gaming machine with a set sum of money to spend. When they reach that limit they can walk away from the

machine happy to have enjoyed a "flutter". They may even, although the odds are against it, walk away with more money in their pocket.

But clearly there are some who spend more than they ought on gaming. And the amount spent in Ballarat through gaming machines continues to grow.

In 2006-2007 $52.3 million was put through Ballarat pokies, in 2007-2008 it was $54.9 million.

There is an argument to be made that as the population grows, so will many other things, such as the amount spent on gambling.

But the Ballarat Responsible Gambling Committee could consider whether the increased spending on gaming machines is reasonable and why it is that other comparable centres such as Bendigo spend less per adult on gaming than people in Ballarat.

The roughly $200 difference between the per adult spend in Bendigo and Ballarat equates to about $13 million.

It is an amount that, arguably, could be better invested elsewhere in the Ballarat economy.

According to the commission, Ballarat has more electronic gaming machines per capita than the state average, and more than the regional Victoria average.

When an application to transfer gaming machine licences is made within Ballarat, the City of Ballarat has argued for a net reduction in the number of machines.

Given the number of machines per capita, this has been a reasonable measure.

But the tough question that remains is: how much is too much when it comes to spending on gaming machines?

Cr Hudson, it is not only time for an apology for misleading the public, but its also time for you to get Ballarat on the right track to minimise the harm pokie gambling is doing to your community.

Start with getting all the pubs and clubs together and ask for details of their plans to implement compulsory pre-commitment and the removal of children from exposure to pokie sights and sounds within their venues. If they can't enforceably promise to have this in place by 2012, then immediately quadruple their rates to begin to compensate for the burden they are placing on Ballarat.

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