Ballina Shire Council will on Thursday consider strategies to combat poker machine gambling problems in the shire.
Ballina Shire Council will on Thursday consider strategies to combat poker machine gambling problems in the shire. Bill North

Ballina council considers ban on venues with pokies

BALLINA Shire Council will on Thursday consider not holding meetings or supporting events held at venues which have poker machines.

They options on the table as councillors try to reduce the social impacts of the 410 poker machines in clubs in the shire, as at December 3, 2018, and the further 154 in pubs, which make a combined profit of $13.7 million.

However, the staff recommendation to council is not so extreme, and calls on council to write a letter to Liquor and Gaming NSW to increase monitoring and compliance of Electronic Gaming Machines (EGM) in the shire.

Council in January resolved to have staff prepare the report on pokies when the council made a decision to offer reduced rent to the Lennox Head Community Sports and Recreation Centre if the number of poker machines was reduced.

The machines are controlled by the State Government through the NSW Gaming Machines Act 2001 (the Act) and councils are restricted on what they can actually do.

However, staff report "the associated harms with gaming addiction have been well documented and have been found to be extremely damaging to individuals, families and communities.”

"Having acknowledged the harms associated with EGMs, the question remains what role, if any, should Council play in the management of EGMs,” the report says.

Staff note that council has in the past benefited from ClubGRANTS funding, which comes from poker machine profits, and also notes that council has supported the annual Seniors Week concert and International Women's Day events at the Ballina RSL Club, and the Ballina Country Music Festival at the Cherry Street Sports Club, which had, at December 2018, a combined 311 machines.

Staff report that ending the support to those events, and putting a stop to holding council events at venues with poker machines would "very likely impact adversely on current council programs and may well have negative implications for local community groups and organisations.”

Staff also recommend council submits a motion to the Local Government NSW Conference for the organisation to lobby the State Government to "undertake increased monitoring and compliance” inspection of pokies.



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