By Alesha Capone
Wyndham council’s new gaming policy will limit how closely pokies venues can be established to social housing.
An aim of the policy, which the council voted to adopt earlier this month, is to manage the concentration of electronic gaming machines away from areas and communities vulnerable to gambling harm.
This includes within 400 metres of walking distance or clear sightline of social housing; a shopping complex or centre; and services used by people experiencing gambling-related harms, such as financial counselling services.
The council is planning to adopt the gaming policy as part of its planning scheme, after obtaining approval from the Minister for Planning.
The policy also aims to discourage new electronic gambling machines being established in growth areas subject to Precinct Structure Plans, until they are “sufficiently established to overcome any significant uncertainties related to adjoining land uses, proximity to sensitive uses and potential for social and economic impacts on the emerging local community”.
Cr Josh Gilligan said that in approving the new policy, the council was embracing “the strongest possible planning scheme controls possible to mitigate the risk of new pokies in growth areas, such as Tarneit and Truganina”.
When the council advertised the policy’s draft for public comment last year, it received six submissions.
Four submissions, from Brimbank council, Hobsons Bay council, the Victorian Local Governance Association and the Alliance for Gambling Reform, supported the council’s stance.
Two submissions objected, including one from the operators of a Tarneit hotel which has 65 pokies machines.
The second objection came from two businesses that are planning to build a facility with 70 pokies machines on Woods Road.
Cr Jennie Barrera said Wyndham was already home to 903 electronic gambling machines, which earned $61 million in the 2020-21 financial year.
“While gambling can be (an) ordinary past-time for some, it is associated with addiction and harmful outcomes for others,” Cr Barrera said.
“Substantial research now indicates that gambling addiction doubles the risk of a person missing a mortgage repayment, leads to higher levels of unemployment, higher levels of family violence and poorer long-term health outcomes.”
For assistance see www.gamblinghelponline.org.au/ or contact Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858.