Gambling News: November 2018 - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Gambling News: November 2018

Councils moving on pokies, more capitulations in NSW, Essendon’s Melton push, Victorian election, local fights, Crown AGM and best of the media

Hi everyone, as we batten down the hatches for a deluge of gambling advertising leading into Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup, please enjoy the latest edition of “Gambling News” which covers some fascinating pokies developments at 3 local government conferences, more gambling capitulations in NSW, an AFL update as the Essendon-Melton decision approaches, Victorian election developments, a wrap of the local fights in Victoria and news from the Crown Resorts AGM in Perth yesterday.

Victoria, NSW and Queensland local govt conferences
The scandal of a new MOU in NSW amidst more capitulations
AFL update - November 12 D-Day for Essendon and Melton
Around the grounds of local pokies fights
Mobile billboard visits Liberal launch as Victorian election approaches
Crown Resorts AGM leads best of the gambling media

Councils and pokies in Victoria, NSW and Queensland - compare and contrast

As is now clearly laid out on the council motions section on our website, we sure had some remarkably contrasting outcomes at the three major local government conferences in NSW, Queensland and Victoria over the past fortnight.

At the Municipal Association of Victoria state council meeting on October 19, the following consolidated motion was comfortably passed without debate:

Consolidated Motion 33: Gambling

Submitting councils: Darebin City Council, Maribyrnong City Council and Hobsons Bay City Council

That the MAV:

1. Calls upon State Government to commit to strategies to reduce gambling losses, adopts a public health approach and implements increased allocation of support funds to more extensive harm measures and communities experiencing large gambling losses.

2. Specifically, calls on the State Government to reduce the number of electronic gaming (EGM) machines from all licensed premises by 2032, and lower EGM caps.

3. Engages with the Vision Super Board to advocate for full divestment of investments held in companies where more than 10% of earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) are derived from gambling including Woolworths, Crown Resorts, Aristocrat, Tatts Group, Tabcorp Holdings and Star Entertainment Group.

This was the first gambling divestment motion ever supported in an Australian political process and we look forward to seeing how Vision Super, the local government super fund in Victoria, progresses the proposal.

Captured NSW councillors defeat gambling harm policy push

It was a very different story in Albury at the LGNSW annual conference on October 22 when this motion from Liverpool was defeated 64% to 36%.

Motion 62 Liverpool City Council Problem gambling

That Local Government NSW:

• provides research and resources to support councils in NSW developing and implementing Gambling Harm Prevention policies, and

• calls upon Liquor and Gaming NSW and the relevant Minister and advocate for local governments to have a greater say in the placement of poker machines.

We’ve never had a gambling debate at LGNSW before, such is the level of industry capture and normalisation in the world’s most pokies-soaked jurisdiction.

100 motions were dealt with in one day at the LGNSW conference and the gambling debate was the liveliest and most interesting. Here is a link to the 13 minutes of audio.

Liverpool mayor Wendy Waller lead off the debate and then we had a further 3 speakers in favour: Greens deputy mayor from Albury Amanda Cohn, Sarah Ndiaye from Byron Shire and the Labor mayor of Broken Hill, Dariea Turley, who later posed for this photo.

The speakers against were all regional being Naranderra mayor Neville Kschenka who lead off, followed by Lake Macquarie Liberal councillor Kevin Baker, then Wayne McAndrew from Lithgow and finally Marianne Saliba, the mayor of Shellharbour.

It was particularly disappointing to hear Marianne Saliba speaking against, seeing she is a former Labor MP, plus is President of the ALGWA NSW committee.

It was noteworthy that the 4 speakers in favour were female Crs and the gambling industry is particularly male dominated.

Given that we didn’t do any direct lobbying for voting support and the NSW pokies clubs were actively pressuring councillors, getting 36% support in the end was an encouraging outcome.

Unfortunately, it is a secret ballot so we won’t find out which individual councillor delegates supported the Liverpool motion.

Queensland shows NSW how to do it

Finally, we had the Local Government Association of Queensland annual conference in Brisbane this week when Noosa Shire had a great win 118 votes to 73 after putting up this motion on October 31:

Motion 87. Noosa Shire: Planning Powers - Electronic Gaming Machines

That the Local Government Association of Queensland advocates to the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning to amend planning legislation to define electronic gaming machines as a land use and permit planning schemes to address both the land use as well as the social impacts of electronic gaming machines on communities.

Noosa mayor Tony Wellington spoke to the motion, there were no speakers against and then it was comfortably passed, in spite of some predictable lobbying by Queensland pokies clubs.

The Queensland move was unprecedented in Australia’s second worst hit state for pokies harm and it generated the following media:

4BC interview with Noosa mayor Tony Wellington
4BC, 1 November, 2018

Labor's Queensland pokies minister seeks to retain all control
Brisbane Times, 31 October, 2018

Well done to Noosa and the supportive councils who stepped up to the mark and let’s hope the Queensland Labor Government will finally start embracing the reform agenda.

NSW wrap including MOU and Opera House

The events in Albury confirmed once again that NSW is the world’s most gambling captured jurisdiction, so it should come as no surprise that the NSW Coalition would sign a new 4 year MOU with Clubs NSW.

We gave the deal a solid serve in this media statement and also during this burst on Radio National with Geraldine Doogue.

As if the Opera House scandal wasn’t enough, Premier Gladys Berejiklian was happy to sit down with Clubs NSW chairman Peter Newell and sign the deal just weeks after his own club, The Steelers in Wollongong, had been hit with the biggest fine in NSW history.

This is what we said in the last edition of Gambling News straight after the Opera House scandal:

Six days later, the gambling industry is chastened by the unprecedented public backlash and we’re today headed into the 4 day Clubs NSW annual conference with the racing industry and the Government scarred by a full blown PR disaster after 311,000 people signed a petition objecting to the bullying and misuse of the Opera House sails. If the NSW Government was thinking about signing another one of those notorious MOUs with Clubs NSW at this week’s conference, surely these scandals will give them pause for thought.

Alas, Gladys still signed the deal but at least there was solid media attention this time such as this strong piece on the Network Ten news and Lisa Visentin’s report in The SMH.

Thanks to everyone who signed our petition urging NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian not to sign another MOU. (Check out the awful 2010 and 2014 versions here.)

As Tim Costello wrote in The Guardian and investigative journalist Michael West wrote on his website, the NSW Government should not be signing any more agreements with Clubs NSW which limit the future reform options in the jurisdiction with the world’s worst levels of gambling harm and losses.

But the government’s priorities remain skewed towards the gambling industry and away from the prevention of gambling harm. For instance, NSW is the latest state to introduce legislation for a 10% Point of Consumption Tax on the NT licensed online bookmakers, which is schedule to start on January 1, 2019.

Buried in the fine detail of the Bill is the news that while the Responsible Gambling Fund will receive $2.5 million in the first half of next year, the Greyhound racing industry gets a bonus $2 million as well - so nearly as much spent propping up the most controversial form of animal gambling as helping those harmed by betting in the first place.

The Greyhound guys are also confident that they will get an additional $4 million a year until 2022 on top of the $40million to be returned to all racing codes - although none of that was mentioned in the Bill.

AFL update - what will Melton do with Essendon on November 12?

AFL owned or managed pokies venues contributed $97.5 million to the overall pokies losses across Victoria of almost $2.7 billion in 2017-18 after the biggest nominal increase in losses for a decade. (See Alliance release.)

For the full list of AFL venue losses in 2017-18, check out this page on our website, plus this updated AFL briefing note.

In 2017-18, there were still 9 AFL clubs operating 17 venues with record combined losses of $97.54 million, up from $94 million in 2016-17 and $93.3 million in 2015-16.

Hawthorn once again won the pokies premiership in 2017-18, lifting losses from $23.29 million to $24.3 million. A recent survey of 48,000 AFL fans showed that 64% believe clubs should be banned from owning or running poker machine venues and some are moving voluntarily. So how have these divestments come to pass?

Melbourne Football Club was first to move, announcing its exit from the industry in April 2018, although it will continue to operate The Bentleigh Club until the licenses lapse in August 2022. The $10 million sale of the Leighoak venue to Moonee Valley Racing Club settled on 31 July, 2018.

Collingwood followed suit by announcing a faster exit and the sale of its two venues – The Club in Caroline Springs and Coach and Horse in Ringwood - to Melbourne Racing Club is believed to have just settled. (See Alliance media release.)

This means 2017-18 will represent “peak pokies” for Victorian AFL clubs and the combined losses of $97.54 million at 17 venues in 2017-18 should drop by about $20 million in 2018-19 with the removal of The Leighoak, The Coach and Horses and The Club early in the 2018-19 financial year. The 3 sold venues had combined pokies losses of $20.88 million in 2017-18, equivalent to 21.4% of the total losses across the 17 venues.

The Victorian Government has also announced the outcome of its sale of new 20 year licences, which showed that all AFL clubs with pokies paid to retain their existing entitlements with the exception of Melbourne FC, which has allowed its 88 entitlements at The Bentleigh Club to lapse.

As The Age reported on October 29, Carlton has bought the most entitlements with 290, followed by Essendon (190), Hawthorn (165), Richmond (97), St Kilda (83), Geelong (80) and Western Bulldogs (65). This leaves 7 remaining AFL clubs currently in possession of 970 post-2022 entitlements spread across 13 venues which generated $73.97m in losses in 2017-18.

Whilst we were all thrilled to read this quote from Western Bulldogs President Peter Gordon in the Herald Sun last month:

“We are moving to sell our remaining gaming assets and using those asset sales as part of the capital commitment to the (Whitten Oval) redevelopment.”

The Bulldogs are yet to actually do the divestment deal. The club owns two pokies venues - Club Leeds in Maribyrnong and the Peninsula Club in Mornington Peninsula - which together extracted $6.1 million from gamblers in 2017-18.

It is not clear what form the exit will take but once confirmed, this will tip the balance in the AFL to having a majority of clubs (10 out of 18) either out of pokies or committed to exiting.

Staying with the AFL,  we do have a problem child in Essendon which is ploughing ahead with a proposed new 29 year pokies lease with City of Melton in Melbourne’s western suburbs for its Melton Country Club venue.

The local paper in Melton splashed with the story last month and The Alliance helped organise 10 submissions before the October 24 deadline, even though the statutory advertisement required that they could only be snail mailed to the CEO.

We’ve been campaigning hard to both the councillors and the Bombers and will keep pushing to stop the new lease, which is scheduled to start on December 1, assuming it gets supported at the November 12 Melton council meeting.

The media pressure has been mounting on Essendon with The Age’s Greg Baum producing this excellent recent column backed up by this strong Herald Sun piece about the AFL pokies ladder of shame. Essendon chairman Lindsay Tanner can’t be enjoying all this criticism when he is known to be uncomfortable remaining in the predatory pokies business.

The Age also produced this exclusive piece on October 29 summarising which clubs have applied for new 20 year licences in Victoria - sadly it is most of them. And then Essendon CEO Xavier Campbell was finally flushed out when he spoke to The Age’s Sam McClure this week, making noises about reducing reliance on pokies but not coming up with anything specific.

Based on the McClure piece, it seems Essendon are also engaging with City of Moonee Valley to potentially get a new lease deal at their Windy Hill home base. This is currently costing Essendon only $63,000 a year in lease payments (see Moonee Valley lease register), compared with the $300,000 Essendon is proposing to pay Melton.

There is no other AFL club like Essendon with multiple pokies venues reliant on the support of council landlords.

Around the grounds of local council fights

Victorian councils have never been more united in their determination to contain the spread of addictive poker machines in the community and the resistance is apparent on several fronts. However, pokies venues remain pretty arrogant in their approach, assuming they will be able to steamroll councils and win approval.

For instance, it is interesting to look at the post-2022 entitlements for the various applicants battling away against councils in VCAT and/or the VCGLR.

City of Darebin was in VCAT for five days last week contesting an application from the Darebin RSL. It has bought 80 post-2022 entitlements (see full list of entitlement owners)  but is currently operating with 65 and Darebin is vigorously contesting the 15 additional machines. The hearing has been extended for an extra day in November. If the matter is not finalised in that additional day, the hearing will not reconvene until February 2019.

City of Greater Dandenong chalked up its second victory at the VCGLR in 18 months after an application from the Dandenong RSL for an additional 11 machines was refused. See how The Dandenong Star Journal reported the victory. The applicants are considering appealing the decision to VCAT, as noted by the local paper this week.

This Dandenong victory has galvanised other councils to lawyer up. City of Greater Geelong is taking on the Geelong RSL which is applying for an extra 30 machines. As the local media reported, councillors voted 6-2 in favour of opposing the application at the VCGLR. They then returned to the issue a fortnight later and resolved to spend up to $8000 on legal representation at the November 21 hearing following a notice of motion from local doctor and councillor Sarah Mansfield. See this story in the Geelong Advertiser.

Similarly, the Wyndham councillors voted 5-3 to refuse a planning permit for 10 more poker machines at the Werribee Football Club, which runs two venues in Wyndham and has bought 165 post-2022 entitlements.

The application related to Werribee FC’s Tigers Clubhouse, a venue which already has 75 machines that drained $11.5 million from the community last year. You can can watch the video of the council debate starting 50 minutes into this recording on Youtube.

Elsewhere, there was a unanimous vote at City of Hobsons Bay last month to oppose an application for 22 more pokies at the Altona RSL, which has quite presumptuously purchased the additional entitlements to the post-2022 licences without yet having approval from council or the VCGLR. It is currently operating 58 and has bought 80 post-2022 entitlements. The Altona RSL hearing before the VCGLR is scheduled for November 7.

It was a similar story in Ballarat last month as the Ballarat Golf Club attempts to snaffle the last 6 entitlements under its council cap, but will be facing written opposition from council at the VCGLR after a unanimous decision. That matter is scheduled for November 29.

Finally, the Glenroy RSL has been battling Moreland in both VCAT and the Supreme Court and it has bought 50 post-2022 entitlements, even though it currently only has approval for 40 and the extra are no certainty.

Mobile billboard pays a visit to Liberal campaign launch

The Victorian election is just 3 weeks away and The Alliance has been rolling out our mobile billboard to hammer home the message that $3.2 billion a year in annual pokies losses (including $450 million at Crown) is too much and councils are united to drive reform.

The presence of the billboard circling Parliament certainly helped as the Victorian Government made a late decision to prioritise passing the foreign bookies tax through the upper house on the final sitting day of the term.

We also headed out to City of Melton last week when lodging our submission opposing the Essendon lease at the Melton Country Club.

Last Sunday, the billboard headed to Ivanhoe for the official Liberal Party campaign launch, where we distributed almost 100 flyers to attendees on the way in.

Our road trips have included visits to 18 councils, as you see in this photo with Cr Virginia Tachos from the local paper in Brimbank, plus this picture of Greater Dandenong mayor Youhorn Chea along with Cr Matthew Kirwan in one of their local papers.

The billboard was launched at the most recent Local Government Working Group on Gambling meeting at the VLGA and is available to visit councils on request.

So far, it has also visited the electorate offices of a few prominent politicians, including Victoria’s Premier, Treasurer and Gaming Minister, along with some of the pokies venues which record our biggest losses. Check out our facebook page for more photos of the billboard's travels.

On the policy front, we’re yet to see anything encouraging from the Labor or Liberal-National parties when it comes to gambling reform although we’ve been raising the issue at some candidate forums.

It is also disappointing that both Gaming Minister Marlene Kairouz and her shadow Danny O’Brien have declined to participate in a gambling forum during the campaign. As was noted in this recent press release on the September 2018 Victorian pokies loss data, the major parties have participated in gambling forums during previous campaigns.

The Victorian election is now just 22 days away and the Victorian Greens are continuing to generate strong community debate after unveiling a policy to completely phase out pokies from pubs and clubs by 2028. See the full policy package here, along with this video.

Premier Daniel Andrews responded with some familiar industry lines such as that pokies are “a perfectly legitimate form of recreational activity” and that there is only a “small number” of problem gamblers.

Liberal leader Matthew Guy is also sticking by the earlier Bipartisan plan to issue new 20 year pokies licences which run through until 2042 and will trigger an additional $70 billion in pokies losses in Victoria.

Community Clubs Victoria have responded to the Greens policy with some highly political commentary which is most unusual from a not for profit organisation and will no doubt be causing some controversy amongst its membership.

The Alliance has been engaging with candidates in marginal seats and we will have a presence when early voting commences on Monday, November 12.

Champions for Change NSW

We held an information night for the Champions for Change project in Strathfield during Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, a week where the Opera House debacle and signing by the State government of another MOU with ClubS NSW highlighted the powers we're up against in NSW.

We must build power in NSW to make our communities safe from further harm. If you've been impacted by gambling and want to connect with others working for a common cause, get in touch with us here to discuss ways we can work together.

As part of the Champions for Change program, we're running a half-day 'Introduction to Public Narrative and Advocacy' training in Strathfield on November 24.  The workshop is for people with lived experience of gambling harm who’d like to learn more about the powerful role of personal stories in social change and inspiring others to act for the common good.

Registrational is essential. Please email the Champions for Change Community Builder, Pepi Belfort [email protected] to register your interest or call 0488 151 645 for more information.

Crown Resorts AGM leads best of the media

There has been plenty of lively material to add to our web page linking to interesting media on gambling issues from around the world. Here are a few of the items we recommend you sample, starting off with some coverage from our trip to Perth yesterday for the AGM of Crown Resorts.


Crown AGM: Wilkie, UBS, Queensbridge Square and Packer biography
SMH, 1 November, 2018

Jane Halton bags smoking, defends gambling
SMH, 1 November, 2018

Huge changes underway at Canberra Clubs
The Canberra Times, 1 November, 2018

Queensland councils demand a say on poker machines
4BC, 1 November, 2018


Michael West on the Redcape pokies float, 31 October, 2018

Essendon vows to reduce pokies reliance
The Age, 30 October, 2018

Geoffrey Archer urges Tories to ban gambling ads
BBC, 30 October, 2018

Interview with Tony Mohr on the gambling reform battle
Pro Bono News, 29 October, 2018

Victorian government awards new long term pokies licences to 5 AFL clubs
he Age, 29 October, 2018

Geelong sets a new record for pokies losses
Geelong Advertiser, 27 October, 2018

Feature on gambling addiction and lack of consumer protection
The Age, 27 October, 2018

Coles keeps Queensland regulators busy on pubs deal
AFR, 26 October, 2018

The Commercial Club and campaigning for reform in Albury
Prime 7 Albury, 23 October, 2018

Pokies clubs often rort community contributions
Maribyrnong Leader, 23 October, 2018

Audio of gambling debate at LGNSW annual conference in Albury
22 October, 2018

Geraldine Doogue interviews Stephen Mayne on NSW MOU
Radio National, 20 October, 2018

Australians the world's worst gamblers with sports losses growing fastest
ABC online, 20 October, 2018

How Tony Blair let the gambling genie out of the bottle
New Statesman, 18 October, 2018

Roger Corbett quits as ALH chair
The Australian, 17 October, 2018

Berejiklian locks in sweet deal with Clubs NSW
SMH, 16 October, 2018

Justin Field speech on total gambling capture in NSW
NSW Parliament, 16 October, 2018

Debate raging over pokies in Sydney's Inner West
Inner West Courier, 16 October, 2018

Past catches up with WA Premier Mark McGowan on fake races
The West Australian, 16 October, 2018

Revealed: Alan Jones' $20m-$40m investment in racing industry
SMH, 15 October, 2018

Tim Costello interviewed by Bill Crews on Clubs NSW MOU
2GB, 14 October, 2018

Two small gambling harm measures included in Clubs NSW MOU
ABC Online, 14 October, 2018  

NSW Coalition accused of kowtowing to pokies industry with new MOU
Guardian Australia, 14 October, 2018

Alliance slams disgraceful new Clubs NSW MOU
Ten News, 14 October, 2018

Embarrassed NSW government releases Clubs NSW MOU
AAP/Daily Mail, 14 October, 2018

Clubs NSW leaks details of MOU to News Corp before government
Sunday Telegraph, 14 October, 2018

Fitz Files: Opera House chair goes missing in action
Sun Herald, 13 October, 2018


That’s all for now. We’ll be back with another Gambling News update later this month.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to become a financial supporter of The Alliance as we strive to reduce world record levels of gambling harm in Australia, click here.

Until next time.

Do ya best,
Stephen Mayne
Editor of Gambling News
Feedback to [email protected],  0412 106 241 or DM tweet to @maynereport