Where is the community benefit in the “Community Benefits” from poker machines? - Alliance for Gambling Reform

Where is the community benefit in the “Community Benefits” from poker machines?

Where is the community benefit in the “Community Benefits” from poker machines?

20 January 2020

Many clubs and hotels have failed to pass on any real “Community Benefits” payments from poker machines, calling into question claims that the scheme gives back to the community.

The latest Community Benefits Statements (CBS) data shows clubs in Port Phillip, Bayside, Monash, Greater Dandenong, Moreland, Manningham, Yarra Ranges, Wellington, Corangamite, East Gippsland, Central Goldfields, Macedon Ranges and Melbourne council areas have contributed zero ‘Class A’ benefits to their respective communities via the CBS, instead funnelling money into ‘Class B’ categories that are commonly spent on their own facilities and operating costs.

Additionally, several RSL clubs around Melbourne have given nothing towards “support and services provided by the RSL (Victorian Branch) to ex-service personnel, their carers and families”.

Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, the Rev Tim Costello, said it was appalling for these clubs to be milking their communities of funds via poker machines while not returning any of the money to support services.

It’s time this charade of a scheme is exposed,” Rev Costello said.

“The thought of RSL clubs raking in money and then not passing it on to benefit veterans and their families is frankly disgusting.

“RSL clubs and the other clubs not passing on these funds receive generous tax breaks on the basis that they are a valued part of the community. Yet so many of these clubs manipulate things by using this money to reinvest in their own facilities instead of supporting the community.

“These clubs are draining their communities of millions of dollars every year, yet they don’t even bother to throw a few thousand dollars back. It’s an appalling lack of community-mindedness from so-called community organisations.”

Rev Costello said recent research by Louise Francis and Charles Livingstone at Monash University demonstrated how ineffective the Community Benefits scheme was.

Their research states: “Scrutiny of community benefit claims indicates that the overall value of community contributions is significantly overstated.

“Overwhelmingly, contributions were largely directed towards venue operating costs. Donations to support actual community causes – such as to benefit disadvantaged populations, veterans, the environment, services for the prevention and treatment of gambling, or drug and alcohol addictions, were largely absent. They are dwarfed by claims for business expenditures, which, rather than providing community benefits, enhance the value of ‘shareholders’, at the expense of the broader community.”

Rev Costello said given the significant gambling harm poker machines caused in communities, it was immoral for so-called community clubs to shirk their responsibilities to return benefit to the community.

“Victorians lost $2.698 billion on poker machines in the past financial year, so to have this money disappearing from communities and being used for operating costs by some venues is nothing but absurd,” he said.

“Poker machines are an addictive product that cause immense harm in our communities. Returning benefits to communities is an obligation for these organisations. They should be doing this instead of essentially feathering their own nests.”

Media contact: Rebecca Thorpe on 0491 209 436 or rebecca@agr.org.au