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Byron Shire
September 21, 2023

Ballina Council baulks at taking tough measures on poker machines

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Ballina Council will write to the Minister for Liquor Gaming and Racing and local MPs to request greater monitoring of electronic gaming machines in the shire.

But the Council stopped short of taking a range of tougher measures aimed directly at Ballina’s biggest gaming machine venues.

The decision was made by the Council at its full meeting on Thursday, which was addressed by the Reverend Tim Costello from the Alliance for Gambling reform.

Rev Costello encouraged the council to act, telling councillors that poker machines were the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’.

He supported the recommendation from staff that the council write to the minister requesting greater compliance and  congratulated councillors on ‘taking steps to act on gambling reform’ after the meeting.

However, the councillors elected not to undertake a range of tougher measures contained in the staff report they had commissioned back in January.

These possible measures would have had a more direct impact on local poker machines, and included withdrawing sponsorship from events held at poker machine venues, and refusing to attend meetings there.

There was also an option for the council not to conduct meetings, forums or workshops at venues with electronic gaming machines; and for it to cease all sponsorship of these venues.

Council staff recommended against taking any of these measures, and Ballina’s councillors followed suit, declining to take any of the tougher measures.

Councillor Keith Williams said that staff had indicated these tougher measures would ‘create difficulties for them in the community’.

‘The issue is that most of the larger venues in the Shire have poker machines,’ Cr Williams said.

‘So to decline to attend meetings or hold workshops at these venues would have consequences for staff and the operations of the council.’

He said that the debate had focused on improving monitoring and compliance as there had reportedly been issues in this area.

‘We have had allegations that some of the venues weren’t obeying the law so we focused on that side of things.’

‘There was an element of the council which thought that it was a state matter and we should stay out of it, so the end result was much closer to a consensus position.’

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  1. There is something fundamentally wrong with organisations, particularly public organisations, that directly or indirectly profit or benefit from, or ignore, the proven misery and despair of others

  2. Surely the least they could do is “cease all sponsorship of these venues”. Why should rate payers sponsor them? The last time I looked at the Ballina RSL annual report (link does not work to see the current one…) they donated back to the community less than they made from Bingo.


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