Friday, 22 October 2010

Jan Juc's Bittersweet Victory

While there is still time left for the Beach Hotel to lodge a VCAT appeal, it was nice to be part of the first decision in many years by the VCGR to knock back a pokies application. Unfortunately, the decision is a poor one. In this blog the focus is on the issue of the applicant demonstrating that it would practice responsible gambling procedures should it be successful.

Here's the finding of the Commission under the heading of "Responsible gambling proposals"
"Mr Pertzel set out in his witness statement the work that has been carried out by him as general manager in order to prepare for the possible introduction of egms at the Hotel, including development of a staff training manual and a venue-specific responsible gambling policy. However, copies of these documents were not provided to the Commission. ..."
So we really haven't a clue what his policy might be. The paragraph goes on about how the policy that was not produced will be disseminated and the legal requirements about codes of conduct. One would have expected an adverse finding.

Not from this Commission.... Here's their finding:
The Commission has also been satisfied that if the application is approved, appropriate measures would be put in place to foster responsible gambling and address any instances of problem gambling that might arise.
The logical conclusion that can be drawn is for applicants to produce nothing because you'll automatically pass this apparently inconsequential test.

But it gets worse. Much much worse.

Mr. Pertzel, on behalf of the Beach Hotel produced job descriptions for his proposed venue manager and the assistant venue manager. There is no reference to responsible gaming practices in the job descriptions of either the venue manager nor the assistant venue manager. He does make reference to gaming performance and that a report is to be made to a David Blewett. There is no evidence lead as to Mr Blewett’s involvement with the Beach Hotel nor his qualifications.

Mr Pertzel’s evidence particularising his investigations into Responsible Gaming practices discloses minimal investigation. While his written statement indicates that contact had been made with problem gambling help services, the fact is that there are no such services in Surf Coast Shire. The only gambling help service is located in Geelong. There is no evidence of correspondence between this service and the Applicant.

Mr Pertzel’s co-director, Mr Closter indicated his involvement with management would comprise no more than showing up “on Friday and have a few beers” and that he had “a chat about it over the last few weeks”. While Mr Closter vows “best practice”, there is no evidence that either he or Mr Pertzel have made substantive investigation to be able to determine what “best practice” might be.

There was no evidence before the Commission that the Applicant nor anyone associated with the Applicant had undergone any training whatsoever in responsible gaming practices.

During the hearing, Mr Closter stated a mistaken impression that the VCGR supplies training. The impression that the AHA provides training in responsible gaming indicates ignorance of the joint venture disclosed on the Association’s web site with the William Angliss Institute.

Mr Closter’s evidence and the Chairman’s responses are set out below:
MR CLOSTER: Look, firstly, I like to delegate as much as I can to Rohan, so I’d show up there on Friday and have a few beers, it’s not necessarily I’m involved in the management. That’s strictly – it’s more on the financial side. In terms of responsible gaming and service of gaming, certainly Rohan and I and Stuart have had a chat about it over the last few weeks. And there’ll be, you know, best practice. So whatever the best practice is, and that is not trading 24 hours, as an example. We’ll be trading in the hours that we do trade in currently. Things – all the training that is available out there, supplied by either the VCGR or the AHA, and any other governing bodies, is what we’ll take up, as directors and as employees of the property.

MR THOMPSON: Have you considered getting consultative help in that regard?

MR CLOSTER: Certainly we will, yes.

MR THOMPSON: There’s some good people out there, I think, that are very well able to provide that to you.

MR CLOSTER: Yes, absolutely.

MR THOMPSON: Rather than have to reinvent the wheel.


Mr Thompson’s question and suggestion to Mr Closter fills a significant gap in the Applicant’s knowledge of responsible gambling practices. Rather than suggesting means to engage persons who might fill a gap in the Applicant’s knowledge, with respect, the Commission should be testing the applicant’s own suitability. Mr Thompson’s suggestion to Mr Closter that “rather than reinventing the wheel” Mr Closter engage a consultant is suggestive of a diminished need to be personally and fully informed about responsible gaming practices. Neither Mr Closter nor Mr Pertzel demonstrated that they would have sufficient knowledge to ascertain whether a consultant was satisfactorily discharging their obligations.

I did put the above submissions to the Commission. I am not surprised that they were ignored. My opinion is that Mr Thompson, as a Commissioner exercising judicial powers, acted improperly in filling this gap in the Beach Hotel's case and then making a finding upon that evidence he extracted.

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