Geelong Council is proceeding with a move to reduce gambling harm through both proactive and passive means, in the wake of the city’s worst ever reported losses.
The Gambling Harm Minimisation Policy is a series of actions aiming to walk the line in balancing people’s right to access a legal form of entertainment, versus protecting public health and wellbeing.
The policy will:
- Install internet filters on all city public Wi-Fi to prevent access to online gambling websites and apps
- Blacklist venues with gambling from holding any meetings, community events, activities, programs, or social outings put on by council or the city
- Ban gambling promotion and advertising from all city-owned facilities
- Advocate to the State Government to review the current cap on pokies machines in the region
- Provide support to community or sporting organisations divesting themselves of EGMs or ending their financial dependence on sponsorship derived from gambling
What has been described as Geelong Council’s “war on gambling harm” comes as the city reports its highest ever quarterly gaming figures, of $33.2 million.
Last October, Council released a draft version of the policy, focused on poker machines, for community engagement. It garnered 69 submissions, reportedly comprising 40 in support and 24 opposed.
This week Council met to vote on an expanded version, now including all forms of gambling.
The motion was passed, despite objection and votes against by councillors Kylie Grzybek and Ron Nelson.
Councillor Grzybek argued the policy would have a major impact on local sporting clubs, describing it as “too harsh, too soon”.
Those in favour suggested it was largely about health promotion, by reducing harmful gambling through education and encouragement.
While recognising some businesses are reliant on revenue from gambling, Council pointed out that its policy does not “compel” venues to make any changes, and it is merely encouraging moves away from this source of revenue.
By contrast, the City released a report accompanying the policy, which recognised the “community benefits” of poker machines, noting the returns via financial contributions into the community.
It was also noted there is an increasingly prevalent correlation between mental health and gambling, drugs, alcohol and family violence; around 39 per cent of Victorians who gamble are said to have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness. This acknowledgement may help better focus treatment for people with gambling control issues, rather than penalise casual gamblers and ratchet up control measures on venues.