Councillors question accepting funds from poker machines

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
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The lucrative revenues local councils receive from poker machines has been questioned by Victorian shire, Macedon Ranges, who have questioned whether the municipality should accept funds raised from the machines.

North Central Review reports that funds raised as part of the Macedon Ranges Shire Council’s community funding scheme caused heated division between councillors at a recent meeting.

During the nearly three-hour meeting on June 23, Cr Janet Pearce moved that council refuse monetary contributions by Gisborne’s Victorian Tavern originating from electronic gaming machines under the 2021-22 Community Funding Scheme.

The scheme is an annual council grant program that funds not-for-profit community groups that offer programs and initiatives benefiting Macedon Ranges residents.

Cr Pearce said accepting money generated by electronic gaming machines was contrary to council’s community wellbeing goals.

“I think it’s against what we stand for within the community,” she said.

“We’re proactive in responding to many social harms, such as mental health, suicide and violence against women.

“We’re doing that on the basis of the impact on our local community and if we’re receiving money from a venue, under the electronic gaming machines, that we know causes harm to the community, then it seems to not really align with our commitment.

“We’re members of the Alliance for Gambling Reform and it advises councils not to accept financial contributions and not promote community grants initiatives offered by local poker machine venues.”

Venue donations compared to local bank community grant schemes

Cr Rob Guthrie said all venues licenced to operate gaming machines had a legislative requirement to donate at least 8.3 per cent of their profits to local groups and the tavern should distribute the funds on its own.

He argued council accepting gaming machine proceeds gave an impression of tacit approval.

“It’s almost like we’re supporting poker machines by having it come through us,” he said.

“They are required to distribute the funds for the benefit of the community and they should be doing that directly, as all other venues across the state do.

“Bendigo Bank distributes directly to the community. That’s an example of the way it should be done and that’s the way we should be telling the Victorian Tavern to do it.

“I don’t support electronic gaming machines – I never have and I never will. I would like to make it very clear to the community that this council does not recognise them at all.”

Cr Anne Moore moved to amend the motion to state council would not accept money raised by electronic gaming machines at any venue in future venues, not only the Victorian Tavern.

The amendment was accepted by councillors.

Councillors react to funding shortfall if gaming funds diverted

Crs Bill West and Geoff Neil opposed the movement, saying it would leave a shortfall in the funding scheme that council would need to cover itself.

“Council is throwing away the chance to see $15,000 distributed through local organisations for working projects this year, and the substantial accumulation of funds distributed over a period of time. It’s got long-term implications,” Cr West said.

“The arrangement in place…for quite some years with the Victorian Tavern has apparently worked well, yet this motion means it will be ended this year.”

Cr Neil said the movement unfairly singled out the Victorian Tavern as a target, as no other gaming machine venues in the shire contributed to the council’s community funding scheme.

“The Victorian Tavern Trust was set up in 2007 with the objective of directing a portion of its gaming machine revenue towards providing community connectedness and recreational alternatives to the pokies.

“They have distributed funds, and the people that gain from these funds are the people of Gisborne,” Cr Neil said.

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