Council adopts new Reducing Harm from Gambling Policy

The Greater Bendigo City Council has adopted a new Reducing Harm from Gambling Policy that aims to minimise harm through supply reduction, demand reduction and harm reduction.

City of Greater Bendigo Mayor Cr Andrea Metcalf said while the new policy aims to address the impacts of gambling in all forms, the policy focuses on Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs) as they are still the most dominant source of financial loss and harm in Australia and their use can be influenced by Local Governments.

“In 2018/2019, $50,671,968 was lost on EGMs in Greater Bendigo at 11 hotels and clubs who jointly operate 661 machines,” Cr Metcalf said.

“The draft policy was released for community consultation in June and the City received a total of 95 submissions. The key themes from the submissions were then analysed and considered by Council and the draft policy was updated.

“While some submitters were concerned that implementing the policy would lead to closure of current venues, this was never the intent of the policy.

From the 95 submissions received, 73 were broadly opposed to the policy, while 15 were broadly supportive. The final eight were mixed or neutral and a further 36 submissions recognised the need for action to reduce harm from gambling.

Of the 73 submissions that were broadly opposed:

  • 46 raised concerns about the expected impact of the policy on sporting or other community-based clubs due to loss of funds, use of facilities or other resources provided by EGM operators
  • 27 did not identify specific aspects
  • 13 submissions raised concerns about the impact of the policy on veterans, most of whom connected this with the belief that adoption of the policy would result in a removal of EGMs from current venues (specifically the Bendigo RSL)
  • 10 submissions explicitly called for more consultation, particularly with local sporting and community-based clubs. Two of these called for consultation with the EGM operators and/or their industry bodies. Letters and a copy of the draft policy were sent to the Australian Hotels Association and Community Clubs Victoria.

“Many submissions were based on the misunderstanding that the Council has the power and desire to remove all EGMs across the City which is not possible, nor is it the intent of the policy.  As a result of the submissions received a number of changes were made to the policy.

“Council wants to be a leader when it comes to reducing the effects of gambling on the community.

“The objective of the policy is to ensure the Greater Bendigo community does not experience negative social and economic impacts from gambling as harm from gambling impacts not only on the individual but also affects other family members, friends, local businesses and communities."

The policy is available to view on the City’s website https://www.bendigo.vic.gov.au/About/Document-Library/Reducing-Harm-from-Gambling-Policy

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