Gambling on the revival of the City Call for more planning control and limits on gambling

We got it wrong…. says Kirner…

Herald Sun: Labor’s gamble causes regrets [09jan06]

Former Victorian Premier Joan Kirner and her cabinet express regret at their decision to introduce gambling in the State of Victoria. She and her Labor Government provided the key and unleashed gambling in an uncontrolled and unregulated manner in the hope of reviving a dying city and the state’s fortune by providing a much needed cash cow.

There were no specific planning controls covering gaming. Under the roll-out of gaming machines it was possible to establish a gaming venue without a planning permit.

If someone wanted to establish an amusement parlor with more then five pinball machines they required a planning permit but if they wanted to establish or change the local hotel or restaurant into a gambling mecca palace they could do so without any community accountability or proper planning control. All that was required was a general liquor licence and the backing of Tattersall’s or the TAB.

The local community or local council had no say when and under what circumstances gaming venues were established. There were limited controls related to an application for a general licence but no requirement related to the proposed use of premises for the installation and establishment of gaming machines.

Local Councils were locked-out from the process. Tattersall’s and the TAB were never really held accountable and were only answerable to the Victorian Gaming Commission which was keen to support the industries growth and was removed from public eye with sessions held behind closed doors.

The Kennett government made matters worst by substantially increasing the number of gaming machines and venues without thought or consideration of the social impact and planning development of the local community. Some restrictions were voluntary imposed by Tattersall’s and the TAB to protect the monopoly held by the recently established Crown Casino which dominated the city’s new entertainment precinct on the banks of the Yarra river.

At the time gaming machines were first being rolled-out the local Carlton community expressed concern that Lygon Street was a potential candidate for conversion from a restaurant tourist precinct to the inner city gaming mecca. Lygon street had a number of restaurants that held a General Licence and was a prime target for a quick expansion. Fortunately for Carlton at the time Tattersalls and the TAB were more interested in targeting the outer suburban localities, predominantly in the less affluent working class regions of Melbourne, and the Premier Jeff Kennett was keen to protect Crown Casino’s interests and limit the number of gaming venues in the inner city area.

There were many, myself included, who thought that the roll-out should have been done in less of a rush and that the first few years should have been restricted to non-profit social sporting clubs as was the case in NSW. But Tattersall’s and the TAB duopoly wanted more control and more of the profit. Kirner wanted a quick solution in the misguided belief that her government could withstand the onslaught. Tattersall’s and the TAB were working the parliamentary rooms and the only ones to escape were those that lived in Melbourne’s “Dry-zone” as there were no General Licenced premises for the taking.

The question we need to ask is what can we do to stem the onslaught and impact of gaming machines and provide responsible control and limits on gambling?

We need to claw back the number of licences for gaming machines currently available.

We need to give Local Councils more say and proper control under planning regulations as to the the conditions and and circumstances gaming venues are allowed to remain or expand.

Tattersalls should be broken up into two separate divisions “Gaming and Lotteries” under separate administration and control. (If you have ever had cause to deal with Tattersall’s customer service then you will understand the degree of lack of responsibility and customer care provided. It is a company that is arrogant and lacking professional standards – accountable to no-one with unchallenged ability to do what they like. They can buy governments loyalty at anytime in the knowledge that they will never be seriously challenged but of the sake of appearance endure the occasional tongue lashing.)

The Gaming commission should be merged with the Liquor Licensing commission so as to improve in the accountability and coordination between gaming and licenced venues with local Councils having more of a say in any application for a gaming/liquor licence.

Any future Gaming licences should be limited to sporting and social clubs only.

Electronic Gaming Card

We need to introduce an electronic “Gaming Card” were payment for the use of gaming machines would be limited to special electronic gaming cards only. With strict limits applying to the amount of money that can be spent by any one individual within a certain period. Similar to the limits that banks apply to credit card expenditure.

Electronic gaming cards should never provide credit and be subject to strict controls related to membership and use. An application for membership would be open to all Australian citizens and permanent residents who would be required to produce suitable identification in the form of a valid drivers licence or passport. Overseas and interstate tourists and visitors could purchase short term membership cards at a predetermined value and would also be required to provide valid identification.

The introduction of electronic gaming cards would allow more effective control and monitoring of money laundering and criminal activity.

A person would be entitled to hold only one card and all deposits and withdrawals must be via electronic bank transfer only.

An application could be made to the courts for a person to be denied access or further restriction to their right to hold a electronic gaming card.

The gaming card could be used to buy food, drink and other services provided by the authorised gaming establishment venue only.

game on…

Anthony van der Craats