Coun­cil ‘no stance’ on pokie re­quest

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

Hor­sham Ru­ral City Coun­cil has voted to take a strate­gic fence-sit­ting po­si­tion in re­sponse to a sub­mis­sion to in­crease elec­tronic gam­ing ma­chines in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

The coun­cil voted to ‘do noth­ing’, based on a premise that it was caught in a para­dox where the best out­come was most likely to come from in­ac­tion.

Cr Joshua Koenig, in mov­ing that the coun­cil take the sec­ond of three op­tions pre­sented by plan­ning and eco­nomic di­rec­tor An­gela Mur­phy, was the best move pos­si­ble.

The op­tions were to sup­port the ap­pli­ca­tion, do noth­ing or ob­ject to the ap­pli­ca­tion.

Cr Koenig’s mo­tion came af­ter coun­cil de­bate on a Hor­sham Sports and Com­mu­nity Club sub­mis­sion to the Vic­to­rian Com­mis­sion of Gam­ing and Liquor Reg­u­la­tion to in­crease its elec­tronic gam­ing ma­chines from 78 to 83.

The is­sue drew a var­ied re­sponse from coun­cil­lors, some con­cerned about the moral­ity of sup­port­ing the move, oth­ers fear­ing that fail­ing to sup­port it would lead to a greater lack of con­trol over the dis­tri­bu­tion of the ma­chines, and one be­liev­ing the coun­cil should main­tain a stand against an in­crease.

Dis­cus­sion un­veiled a be­lief from some that be­cause the Vic­to­rian Com­mis­sion of Gam­ing and Liquor Reg­u­la­tion was re­spon­si­ble for gam­ing ma­chines, that the coun­cil would ul­ti­mately be pow­er­less in fight­ing the sub­mis­sion.

This was re­gard­less of a coun­cil pol­icy po­si­tion es­tab­lished in 2012 to ad­vo­cate against any in­crease in gam­ing-ma­chines li­cences, while en­cour­ag­ing a re­duc­tion in li­cences.

Ms Mur­phy pro­vided in­for­ma­tion that if the coun­cil was to ob­ject, the com­mis­sion would list the mat­ter for a hear­ing.

Whether the com­mis­sion ap­proved or re­fused the ob­jec­tion, there was an abil­ity by the sports and com­mu­nity club to ap­peal to the Vic­to­rian Civil and Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal.

De­bate sur­rounded a strong feel­ing that there was a risk of wast­ing money or in­ad­ver­tently di­rect­ing gam­bling money away from the com­mu­nity in fight­ing the move.

Cr David Grim­ble, out­lin­ing how the club re­dis­tributed money gen­er­ated from the ma­chines into the com­mu­nity, at the same time ar­gu­ing the move was low-risk, moved to sup­port the sub­mis­sion. Cr John Robin­son agreed. “I don’t think legally we have much grounds to ob­ject to this,” he said.

“We’re en­ti­tled to ob­ject but we would in­cur le­gal ex­penses and so would the club.

“The im­pact would be tak­ing money away from com­mu­nity groups.”

Crs Grim­ble and Robin­son

“If the coun­cil does noth­ing, it is likely that the com­mis­sion will ap­prove the ap­pli­ca­tion” – An­gela Mur­phy

also spoke on fears that if the sport and com­mu­nity club did not get the ma­chines, other less ‘ap­pro­pri­ate’ or­gan­i­sa­tions might ac­quire them.

Cr Mark Rad­ford said he had gen­eral con­cerns about the ma­chines, adding that he could feel ob­vi­ous ‘ten­sion’ in the cham­ber sur­round­ing the is­sue.

“Poker ma­chines are a real prob­lem for some peo­ple,” he said.

“Some­times you have speak up for the small voice and I think this might be a case. For those peo­ple I’m vot­ing against this.”

Cr Grim­ble’s mo­tion was lost in a split vote, which led Cr Koenig to move that the coun­cil ac­cept Ms Mur­phy’s sec­ond op­tion, which was to do noth­ing.

Ms Mur­phy said in her re­port that by not re­spond­ing, the coun­cil would de­clare no sup­port for the ap­pli­ca­tion.

“If the coun­cil does noth­ing, it is likely that the com­mis­sion will ap­prove the ap­pli­ca­tion,” she said.

Cr Koenig said the move would re­sult in the best out­come with­out the coun­cil sac­ri­fic­ing moral ground, and his ar­gu­ment drew sup­port from mayor Pam Clarke.

Cr Clarke said the move was a case of tak­ing di­rect ac­tion through in­ac­tion.

But Cr Koenig’s mo­tion also at­tracted re­sponses from Crs Grim­ble and Robin­son, who ar­gued the coun­cil was fail­ing in its role to make a de­ci­sion for the com­mu­nity.

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