Pokies came under fire at the Ballina Shire Council meeting yesterday (Thursday) when the rental discount for Club Lennox came up for discussion. The Club is built on council-owned community land and currently receives a 50 per cent rental discount in recognition of the good community work they do.
‘What seemed to be a relatively routine matter of extending a rental discount for a club on community land turned into a debate on the social cost of poker machines,’ said Councillor Keith Williams.
Deputy Mayor, Councilllor Nathan Willis moved a motion that offered the option of a 75 per cent discount on the rental for Club Lennox for reducing poker machine numbers by 10 per cent or conversion to a $1 peppercorn rental if poker machine numbers were decreased by 20 per cent. The Club currently has 26 machines.
This reflects the strong community sentiment to reduce the number of pokies machines across the Ballina electorate. A survey conducted across the electorate earlier this year by the new owners of the Beach Hotel in Byron found that three-quarters of the people surveyed supported a cut back on poker machines ‘while just 10 per cent opposed the move’.
Not council role
Councillors Smith, Meehan and Cadwallader spoke in opposition to the motion saying that the industry was already heavily regulated by the state and it was not Councils role to regulate the machines or tell The Club how to operate its business.
However, Councillor Williams highlighted that taking up the proposal was entirely at the Club’s discretion saying, ‘We are offering a financial incentive for the club to consider the impact of poker machines on the community. If the option doesn’t work for The Club, then they can continue with the current 50 per cent discount.’
‘This recognises the great work Club Lennox already does in supporting a vibrant, welcoming community.’
Councillors voted 6–4 in favour of the motion with Councillors Willis, Williams, McCarthy, J Johnson, Parry and Wright voting for and Smith, Cadwallader, E Johnston and Meehan voting against.
Council will receive a further report on poker machine harm minimisation strategies being undertaken by Councils next year.
I also spoke against this motion along the lines of : “ it’s not council’s role to impose social engineering on the club”. And if we go that way why not hit alcohol and tobacco as well.
60% of patients in Australian hospitals have conditions related to alcohol and tobacco.
That’s a great idea Councillor – let’s look at them next.