Council calls to end pokies “loophole” law

Published on 27 June 2022

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Kingston City Council’s residents lost nearly $44.2 million through poker machines in 2020/21, despite venues being closed for nearly 5 months. In a normal year, gambling harm would total nearly $80 million.

That’s why Kingston City Council presented a motion to the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) State Council on Friday, calling on the Victorian Planning Minister to block a major loophole in planning laws that exposes residents to a greater risk of gambling harm, just by buying their groceries.

The motion follows the VCAT approval of a Woolworths-based shopping centre just 75 metres from the entrance to the poker machine venue at the Chelsea Heights Hotel.

Under current planning laws (Clause 52.28) Councils can ban the development of gambling venues in retail areas, however, the VCAT decision now leaves an opening for retail giants to be built adjacent to gambling venues.

“In Victoria it’s nonsensical that you can’t build a gaming venue next to a supermarket, but you can build a supermarket next to an existing gaming venue,” said Mayor Steve Staikos.

“This gap in logic leaves our communities open to the very real trauma of gambling harm.”

Council called on the MAV to:

  • Prohibit gaming premises in close proximity to supermarkets under the Victorian planning provisions
  • Advocate for changes to the Victorian Planning Provisions that would prohibit the use of land for a Supermarket under the Commercial 2 Zone in situations it is seeking to establish in close proximity to an established Gaming premise

Kingston opposed the Woolworths development and is appealing the VCAT decision in the Supreme Court of Victoria in late July.

In the meantime, it will continue to advocate for greater gambling harm reduction measures in collaboration with the Alliance for Gambling Reform and community groups via its Enough is Enough campaign.

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