Publican gambles on pokies purchase and loses

A GAMBLE by the proprietor of Yarram’s Commercial Hotel for 10 gaming machines has not paid off.

In rejecting a motion to exempt the hotel from a policy not to allow new gaming venues on shopping strips, Wellington Shire Council has shown its clearest indication it doesn’t want more gaming machines in the shire.

Hotel proprietor Bernie Plummer bought 10 machines, despite council’s gaming policy, which is in line with state government legislation to make venues less accessible to vulnerable people.

Wellington Shire has a gaming machine cap of 324.

If that was met, Wellington would have 9.51 machines per 1000 adults.

Only the Borough of Queensliffe, with 17.96, would have more in Victoria.

Sale has 22.68 machines per 1000 adults, Yarram 8.87, Maffra 3.49 and Loch Sport 3.3.

In December last year, council revised its responsible gaming policy, to not increase the number of machines in Sale or exceed the level of 10 per 1000 adults elsewhere in the shire.

While the addition of 10 machines in Yarram would just fit within the shire-wide cap, they would have taken the level of machines in the town past the threshold to 11.26 per 1000 people.

Mr Plummer told council the population statistics on which the level of machines was based did not take into account the wider area Yarram serviced, which stretched into the South Gippsland Shire.

In blocking the application, some councillors expressed concerns about the value gaming machines provided to the community.

Cr Emilie Devine said there was a clear link between accessibility of machines and problem gambling.

“Strip shopping location makes gaming far more accessible,” she said.

“My thinking on this matter is the Commercial Hotel-Motel in Yarram purchased these gaming machines with knowledge of our planning scheme. That in itself is a gamble and I hope on this occasion it doesn’t pay off.”

Cr Darren McCubbin said he did not want Mr Plummer to spend $100,000 and two years trying to amend the Wellington Planning Scheme, only for his application to be rejected.

“We have the second highest level of gaming machines per person in the state,” he said.

“How is the state going to agree to expanding our level of poker machines?

“Is the state going to agree to that? Of course they’re not.

“Let’s understand that already $23 million a year is spent on poker machines within Wellington Shire. That’s $691 to every adult within Wellington Shire.

“There is no way known that this will go through.”

Deputy mayor Carolyn Crossley said there was limited or no evidence of any benefit to small communities to having a small number of gaming machines in a shopping strip.

Six of the nine councillors voted against progressing the planning scheme amendment.

Cr Malcolm Hole said Mr Plummer should have the opportunity to put his case for the machines.

Cr Peter Cleary said there was no evidence to indicate 10 more machines was going to detrimental to the people of Yarram.

“I think it’s a bit of a storm in a tea cup, it is within our 324 cap and we should let this proceed,” he said.

Cr Bob Wenger said Mr Plummer was a major supporter of local clubs and events.

For more read Friday’s Gippsland Times.