Thursday, 25 March 2010

Unanimous

Last night all councillors present voted to reject the application to redevelop The Beach Hotel.

The most discussed aspect was the inappropriate nature of the development itself. Significantly inadequate car parking and loss of amenity to the pub's Jan Juc neighbours were raised. It seems that the community does not want this development regardless of whether there are pokies or not.

Statements were made that Messrs Closters and Pertzel intended to change the building plans yet nothing was tabled. It was mentioned by council staff that revised plans could be considered at a VCAT hearing. The only proper course however, is for Messrs Closters and Pertzel to literally return to the drawing board and submit an entirely new application.

Why?

The Council rejected the plans submitted based upon the public submissions and staff recommendations. The appeal must be from the Council's decision on those plans, not some other plans which have not been the subject of like review.

The best course would be for Messrs Closters and Pertzel to be content with the business they have, strengthen the relationship with the terrific community of Jan Juc and capitalise on their experience by moving on to other Surf Coast opportunities for well run pubs not dependent upon the harmful form of adult entertainment that is pokie gambling.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Surf Coast Officers Reject Beach's Pokies

The agenda of Surf Coast Shire's Council meeting for 24 March has now been published. On page 18 is the recommendation of it's officers. The recommendation on page 18 is to refuse the application to redevelop The Beach Hotel. Here's a copy of page 18:Click here to read the entire agenda. The agenda includes the full report of the Shire's officers starting on page 18.

It is significant that 3 of the 4 grounds of refusal have nothing to do with pokie gambling. They are a rejection of the development itself as presented by Messrs. Closters and Pertzel. While the building may be changed, the problem of parking remains.

Issue must be taken with the shire's report where it states that "gaming is a legitimate form of entertainment". Often the use of the word "legitimate" equates to "reasonable" or "sensible". This is not the case with pokie gambling. Instead the pokie gambling should be characterised as a harmful form of adult entertainment that is licensed under the Gambling Regulations Act in certain circumstances.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Victoria's Gambling Commission Sucks

Here is an extraordinary statement from Victoria's gambling commission demonstrating that it is out of touch with local communities and its members unfit to hear any further pokie gambling license applications. The statement is taken from the 15 March 2010 decision regarding the Laurimer Tavern in Whittlesea.
91. It will provide a modern Tavern with a range of entertainment facilities which are not available at present, and which a new and growing residential area is entitled to expect. It is consistent with the Council’s Strategic Development Plans for the suburb. The gaming room will be part of the overall facility which is a common feature of similar developments in the newer suburbs of Melbourne.
No facts were cited by the Commission in this decision that supports a finding that pokie gambling is something that "a new and growing residential area is entitled to expect". This is a statement that demonstrates clear bias.

It should be noted that Whittlesea Council opposed this application and spent a considerable amount in support of its position. The finding that the Council's opposition is inconsistent with its own plan can be easily ascertained.

Finally, simply because this same Commission has granted pokie gambling licenses in other areas is no justification for granting this license. In other cases the Council may have supported those applications upon criterion that would no longer apply. For example, pokie venue licenses granted in shopping centres and many strip malls that would no longer be permitted.

Each application must be treated upon its merits. These statements of predisposition by members of the Victorian Gambling Commission are grounds for dismissing the Commissioners involved with this decision.

Friday, 12 March 2010

The Beach Hotel's Flawed Petition

Last night Surf Coast Council heard submissions about the application of The Beach Hotel to introduce pokie gambling to the suburban community of Jan Juc. The applicant presented a petition with an impressive number of signatories. The problem with the petition was that there was no mention on it that the redevelopment signatories were supporting involved the introduction of pokie gambling to Jan Juc. This means that the applicant's petition is of no value to measure community views about the main issue before Council.

There were other flaws.

Cr Rose Hodge pointed out that the proposed smoking balconies would overlook homes. At the least, this would create a noise nuisance for the neighbourhood.

The inadequacy of the proposed parking was raised. If the function rooms were being utilised on a night where the pub was traditionally well patronised, there would not be enough spaces. This did not even take into account any extra people at The Beach Hotel who were there to gamble on the pokies. The applicant was asked where he expected people to park.

The applicant offered to lop a whole floor off the development. One wonders if this would effect the motel rooms, the function rooms or the size of the restaurant. No plans were presented that showed what the development would look like with a floor lopped off. It was discussed that Council could only consider the plans before it.

Some time ago, Surf Coast Shire commissioned and accepted a report relating to its Gaming Policy Framework. If you would like a copy, please email me at PokieWatch@yahoo.com and I will be happy to send one to you.

As a part of that report, an audit of every township was conducted to clearly set out where gaming would be discouraged in Surf Coast Shire. Maps were created. Here's the map created for Jan Juc;

The Beach Hotel is within the area marked as a "Discouraged Area".

The words that appear in bold type in the policy recommendations are placed under the heading of "Detailed location criteria".
"Gaming machines should be located in venues which are a destination in their own right. This is defined as locations where gaming venues will not be integrated with or adjacent to shops, major transport interchanges, foreshore activity areas and key community facilities"
Pokie gambling at The Beach Hotel would be located adjacent to shops, a foreshore activity area and key community facilities. It could not be considered a destination in its own right. Without even beginning to consider its effect on the well being of the Jan Juc community; the application to introduce the harmful adults only entertainment that is pokie gambling must be rejected.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Beach Hotel's Application Should Fail

Here's the submission made by Jeremy Ham on behalf of the people who joined the Don't Poke Jan Juc Facebook page. You are encouraged to comment. All comments that are posted with the author's name and address will be printed and I will personally submit them the Surf Coast Shire. Put another way, I am happy to allow people to continue post anonymously on this blog but if you would like your views known to Surf Coast Shire Council, we need to know who you are. Of course, you can always write directly to the Surf Coast Shire. So here it is:


Submission to Surf Coast Shire

To Reject

Redevelopment of Bells Beach Hotel



This submission is made by Jeremy Ham on behalf of the 658 members of the “Don’t Poke Jan Juc” Facebook group.

  • The Surf Coast Shire should reject the application of the Bells Beach Hotel on the following grounds:
  • Failure to comply with objectives of the Surf Coast Shire’s Gaming Policy
  • The net economic and social impact of the introduction of 30 pokie gambling machines into Jan Juc will be detrimental to the well-being of that community
  • Failure to comply with the objectives of the Gambling Regulation Act as set out in section 1.1 (2)
  • Scale of the development that is inappropriate for the Jan Juc area
  • The proposal requires concessions on car parking. Following the first stage of the redevelopment of the Beach Hotel, there is evidence of a car parking shortfall at the Jan Juc community centre in peak periods. The demand from the proposed additions will further impact this situation. Full carparking to council requirements should be provided, with no concessions.
  • Additional drinking and gambling areas proposed in the functions rooms and sports bar do not contribute to the wellbeing of the Jan Juc community.

Pokie gambling is a harmful form of adult entertainment that is otherwise illegal unless licensed and operated pursuant to relevant legislation.


Failure to comply with objectives of the Surf Coast Shire’s Gaming Policy


There is no pokie gambling presently located in the Jan Juc community. This proposal will introduce access to pokie gambling in this community.

The proposed central location of pokie gambling in the Jan Juc shopping area:

  • is adjacent to and integrated with shops, key community facilities and the Jan Juc foreshore activity area.
  • provides the Jan Juc community optimal access to pokie gambling


The location of pokies at this venue both facilitates and encourages convenience gambling.

Please refer to Clause 52.28 of the Planning Scheme prohibiting the location of pokie gambling in shopping areas.

Recent information released by the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation reveals that 4 out of the top 5 highest gambling loss venues are located in or immediately adjacent to shopping.

The Productivity Commission 2009 draft report found that “there is a link between accessibility and gambling harms”. It also observed:

“Had there been full knowledge at the time about the harmful effects of substantially increasing accessibility to gaming machines in the 1990s, a different model of liberalisation — centred on destination, rather than community-wide, gambling — may have been seen as appropriate.”

The location of the proposed pokie machines is not centred on destination e.g. the Torquay Golf Club but rather on community wide access.



The net economic and social impact of the introduction of 30 pokie gambling machines into Jan Juc will be detrimental to the well-being of that community



Having regard to the decisions of both the Victorian Supreme Court and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in the matter of the Romsey Hotel; this application fails to satisfy the test for suitability for pokie gambling as set out in Section 3.3.7 (1) of the Gambling Regulation Act.

In this regard, Council should consider the nature of the Jan Juc community and then the impact of the introduction of pokie gambling on the community.

The community to be considered should not be defined by the existing patronage of the applicant’s venue nor the patronage the venue aspires to. The words of Section 3.3.7 (1)(c) require consideration only of “the community of the municipal district in which the premises are located”. That community is Jan Juc; not even Torquay.

Jan Juc is a suburban residential community devoid of commercial enterprise other than a caravan park on the edge of the community and the few shops and offices where the proposed pokies are to be located. It is a quiet family suburb near Australia’s best know surf beach. Other than car parking, there is no development at either Bells beach or Jan Juc beach. There are no franchised fast food or retail outlets.

Reflecting the quiet nature of the Jan Juc, most roads have speed bumps. There are parklands that run through the suburb with walking paths. There are few paved footpaths, and the proposed introuduction of footpaths has resulted in an overwhelming community response. This is another indication of the feelings of the Jan Juc community in relation to development.

Based upon the 2006 census, 3,158 people lived in Jan Juc. 53.3% were couples with children. 32.6% were couple without children. 43% of the population were aged less than 30.

The perceived advantages of introducing pokie gambling into Jan Juc are:

  1. Provision of an adult form of entertainment
  2. Increased employment
  3. Enlargement of the eating areas, bar and the addition of two function rooms.
  4. Addition of 8 motel units.
  5. Donations to local causes


Unlike the Romsey matter, there is already a functioning restaurant at the Beach Hotel. The enlargement of this facility will not involve significant additional employment. Unemployment in Surf Coast Shire is presently well below state averages.

The conclusions of the 2008 study undertaken for the Tasmanian Treasury Department provide helpful guidance. It referred to a prior finding that venues with gambling facilities employed an average of 3.2 persons per $1 million in gambling income. The number may be lower at The Beach depending upon operating hours and dual use of existing bar staff.

The same study concluded that “claims that the gambling industry has significantly contributed to economic growth in the aggregate economy is not substantiated.” It also found that “there is no clear relationship between local (intrastate) tourism and overall gambling expenditure”.

The applicant has indicated that the revenue from the pokies is essential for the construction and operation of motel units at the hotel. It is submitted that the introduction of motel units should be rejected under any circumstances. This matter is detailed below.

Utilisation of this site for motel units is contrary to the character of Jan Juc and would alter the nature of this bedroom community. It is an inappropriate use of this land. The family character of this suburb is inconsistent with the character of a tourist population. Demand for motel accommodation is already catered for in Torquay.

The amount reported to be donated to local causes is trivial compared to reported per machine pokie losses at other Surf Coast venues. It is not clear whether such donations will be by way of good or services ‘in-kind’ or in cash.

The disadvantages of introducing pokie gambling into Jan Juc are:

  1. Significant harm caused by pokie gambling to regular gamblers.
  2. Adverse effect on other like businesses. Increase in pokie entertainment expenditure leads to a decrease in other entertainment expenditure
  3. An increase in income generating crime. The Tasmanian study concluded: “A positive and significant relationship was found between gaming expenditure and some crime rates, particularly “income generating crimes”
  4. A decline in the happiness, contentment or sense of well being in the community



The FaceBook group and survey


In November 2009, the FaceBook site “Don’t Poke Jan Juc” (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=183817731826) was set up to guage community feelings about the development and to provide information relating to Poker Machines and this proposal. As of 4th March 2010, the group has grown to 658 members. Many of these members are locals of Jan Juc and Torquay. Following this, the Beach hotel set up a FaceBook group “I Support the Beach Hotel Jan Juc development plans” with 131 members as of 4th March 2010.

During the period 15th February to 4th March 2010, an online survey was set up to further guage community feelings about the proposed development. This survey (http://questionpro.com/s/5-824192-1583850) was linked to the FaceBook site and an Echo article relating to the pokies proposal. Thus, the survey was made available to all community members with an internet connection.

During this time, 93 people completed the survey. In summary, this survey provided the following insights:

  • 55% of respondents live in Jan Juc
  • 16.9% of respondents live in Torquay
  • 95.5% of Jan Juc resident respondents rate their sense of wellbeing as “high” or “ very high”
  • 88% of Jan Juc resident respondents think that their sense of wellbeing would decrease or greatly decrease if there is a decision to approve the installation of 30 gaming machines at the Beach Hotel in the Jan Juc shopping centre
  • 65% of Jan Juc resident respondents think that their sense of wellbeing would decrease or greatly decrease if there is a decision to approve the additional sports bar, function rooms and hotel suites at the Beach Hotel in the Jan Juc shopping centre
  • 82% of respondents stated an objection to the proposal. In addition, 9% of respondents provided comments objecting to aspects of the proposal.
  • 975 of respondents believe the introduction of gaming machines at the Beach Hotel will have a negative impact on the social character of Jan Juc

In addition, the survey provided the forum for open ended text comments relating to the proposal. These comments provide a valuable insight into the feelings of people in the community. The overwhelming tone of comments is negative, and serves as a genuine expression of the impact of the introduction of poker machines on the community.


The set up of this blog does not make it possible to reproduce the Appendix attached. If you would like a copy, please email me at PokieWatch@yahoo.com and I will send you a copy.



Failure to comply with the objectives of the Gambling Regulation Act as set out in section 1.1 (2)


While other provisions of this section should be taken into account, particular regard should be given to the recently added subsection that provides that one of the main objectives of the legislation is:

“to ensure that minors are neither encouraged to gamble nor allowed to do so”

This objective is clarified by the joint statement of the federal and all state gaming ministers by setting out national principles for the conduct of responsible gaming machine activity in clubs and hotels. The first principle states:

“Minors should not be allowed to gamble or be exposed to gambling areas within venues”

Here is a link to that joint statement:

http://www.jennymacklin.fahcsia.gov.au/internet/jennymacklin.nsf/content/gambling_communique_10july2009.htm

The applicant’s plans should be rejected as children eating in this venue will be exposed to the gambling areas and as a result encouraged to gamble.

In addition to the legislation and government policy statements, studies undertaken by both the Queensland state government and the Nova Scotia provincial government refer to normalisation of gambling as a result of exposure. Such normalisation has been found to lead to a greater prevalence of problem gambling in later years. Put simply, the behaviour of parents and other adults shapes the future behaviour of children.

The plans show the restaurant to be as close as possible to the pokie gambling area. While the plans do show a solid wall, they also show an open bar between the two areas and a double door. At the very best case, children in the restaurant will be exposed every time the doors open and shut. At worst, they will be left open or constructed from glass. It is speculation whether the applicant intends to have a sign over the pokie room door promoting the location of the pokies.

Furthermore, if a family function is being held in Function 1, then people using the toilets may also be exposed to the pokie room. Adult traffic through Function 1 is likely as there is no smoking lounge self-contained within the pokie area. The closest adjoins Function 1. Alternatively, smokers would walk through the restaurant to gain access to a smoking area. These plans are undesirable in the interests of public health.



We urge the council to reject this application based on the case outlined in this submission.

Jeremy Ham


Monday, 1 March 2010

The Beach Hotel's Non-Compliant Plans

The web site for The Beach Hotel invites visitors to "feel free to come to the hotel and see the plans, we are happy to answer any questions you may have". I obtained a copy of plans for The Beach and they do not appear to comply with the national principles for the conduct of responsible gaming machine activity in clubs and hotels. Here's a picture of the plan:The first national principle states that minors should not be exposed to gambling areas within venues yet Mr Pertzel plans show the restaurant to be as close as possible to the pokie gambling area. While the plans do show a solid wall, they also show an open bar between the two areas and a double door. At the very best case, children in the restaurant will be exposed every time the doors open and shut. At worst, they will be left open or constructed from glass. I can only speculate whether Mr Pertzel intends to have a sign over the pokie room door promoting the presence of pokies.

Furthermore, if a family function is being held in Function 1, then people using the toilets may also be exposed to the pokie room. Adult traffic through Function 1 is likely as there is no smoking lounge self contained within the pokie area. The closest adjoins Function 1. Alternatively, smokers would walk through the restaurant to gain access to a smoking area.

I emailed Mr Pertzel using the form on The Beach Hotel's web site. Here's what I wrote:
I refer to your plans to include pokie gambling at the Beach Hotel.
These plans do not comply with the National Principles for responsible pokie gambling as your plans allow for children to be exposed to pokie gambling within the venue. You can read the principles here: http://www.jennymacklin.fahcsia.gov.au/internet/jennymacklin.nsf/content/gambling_communique_10july2009.htm
It would be helpful if you could provide information to my email address what your proposals are to comply with the national principles.
Exposure to pokie gambling is at odds with your earlier statements about The Beach being a 'family haven"
I have not gotten a response from Mr Pertzel despite providing my contact details.

I welcome the opportunity to speak or meet with Mr Pertzel to discuss his adoption of the national principles.