The City of Greater Bendigo will not support Bendigo Stadium’s bid to install 44 poker machines at a White Hills hotel, with one councillor suggesting the “checklist of harm from pokies is extensive”.
Councillors voted six to one in opposition to the application at a council meeting on Wednesday evening.
Cr Andrea Metcalf was the only opposer and two other councillors weren’t present.
A report by City of Greater Bendigo social planner Lindy Wilson recommended the council not support Bendigo Stadium’s bid, suggesting the application would have a negative effect on the community.
Cr Metcalf proposed council should not have a position on the bid, given the apparent futility in local government’s historical opposition to poker machine applications.
Cr Metcalf said since 2012, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation had 138 hearings for poker machine applications, 131 of which – or 95 per cent – were approved.
Eighty of those decisions were opposed by local governments at the VCGLR hearings, where, according to Cr Metcalf, 75 were approved.
Bendigo, under current legislation, can have a maximum of 756 machines, Cr Metcalf said.
It currently has 641, meaning the application, if successful, would take the number of machines to 685.
“We should have no position on it, which is why I will be voting against the current recommendation (to not support the application by Bendigo Stadium),” Cr Metcalf said.
Councillor Jennifer Alden said: “The checklist of harm from pokies is extensive.”
“People with gambling problems can experience a wide range of harm, including physical and mental.
“We (Australia) have 20 per cent of the world’s gambling machines despite having 0.3 per cent of the population.
“When sporting clubs are sponsored by the proceeds of gambling then that is of great community concern.
“It’s our (councillors) responsibility to stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves.
“Council is the only avenue to act on the communities behalf.
“How can we support the sporting clubs off the pokies teat?”
Councillors also endorsed the City of Greater Bendigo 2017/18 budget and the community plan 2017-2021 at the meeting, while also rejecting one planning application and amending another.