Ditch the pokies and get cheaper rent, council tells club
IF A Northern Rivers club loses 20 per cent of its pokies, its council landlord will give them a $1 peppercorn rent.
On Thursday during the Ballina Shire Council meeting, a discussion about extending a rental discount for Club Lennox, which sits on community land, became a debate on the social cost of gaming machines.
The current discount offered to the club is 50 per cent.
But Deputy Mayor Nathan Willis moved an amended motion to offer Club Lennox a 75 per cent discount on the rental for reducing poker machine numbers by 10 per cent, or conversion to a $1 peppercorn rental if machine numbers were decreased by 20 per cent.
This would see the number of pokie machines drop from 26 machines to around 20.
Cr Willis said as community land was involved, the council should be mindful of the cost of poker machines on the community.
However, councillors Ben Smith, Phillip Meehan and Sharon Cadwallader spoke in opposition and said the industry was already heavily regulated and it was not the council's role to regulate or tell the club how to operate.
Cr Keith Williams seconded the motion and spoke of his personal experience of the impact of pokies addiction.
"Poker machines damage families” he said.
"We are offering a financial incentive for the club to consider the impact of poker machines on the community.”
Councillors voted 6-4 in favour of the motion with councillors Willis, Williams, Stephen McCarthy, Jeff Johnson, Sharon Parry and Mayor David Wright voting for and Smith, Cadwallader, Eoin Johnston and Meehan voting against.
A further report on poker machine harm minimisation strategies is being undertaken by Council next year.
Club Lennox manager, Glen Lloyd, said the offer to reduce poker machines for further rent relief came out of the blue.
"This is something we will consider,” he said.
"We have a finance meeting next week and it will be discussed by the full board meeting in early January.
"The reality is that without poker machines the club is not here.
"We put a million dollars back into the local economy through employing local staff and sponsor 17 affiliate clubs.”