Corangamite Shire’s poker machine exclusion zone for shopping precincts

MEASURES to prevent new poker machine venues along shopping strips in Terang, Camperdown and other towns have been flagged by the Corangamite Shire.

The municipality proposed policy on gambling would stop further poker machine development in the shire’s retail precincts, forcing any new proprietors to set up shop in sporting clubs and other more remote sites.

Cobden Golf Club and Camperdown’s Commercial Hotel are the only two pokies venues in Corangamite Shire, with 57 machines across the two sites.

However, there is the potential for a further 70 poker machines within the shire under statewide guidelines on electronic gambling.

Corangamite Shire mayor Chris O’Connor said while the municipality was not against gambling, it was preferable to have poker machine venues located outside retail precincts.

“It’s a planning scheme amendment, so it’s out there for public comment but I think there’s a lot of people that are wary of the benefits of pokies,” Cr O’Connor said.

“Poker machines are legal and I think it’s fine when they’re located at a golf club or bowls club out of the main shopping area because people make a conscious decision to go there. The problem is when they’re located in a shopping strip, there’s a greater chance of money being spent that might otherwise have gone back into local business.”

If the measures are approved by Planning Minister Matthew Guy, the ban would cover shopping areas in Camperdown, Terang, Cobden, Timboon, Port Campbell, Skipton and Simpson.

Corangamite Shire’s June agenda states the purpose of prohibiting poker machines in main streets is to “discourage convenient access”, adding that research showed “when there are significant time and space barriers to gambling, people are more likely to make planned decisions to gamble”.

Cr O’Connor said the new measures would not impact the shire’s existing venues but were aimed to prevent the expansion of electronic gambling into key retail areas.

Further details of the municipal policy come after The Standard reported last week that $33 million was lost on poker machines in the south-west during the 2013-14 financial year.

Of that $33 million, nearly $1.87 million was lost at Camperdown’s Commercial Hotel while a further $1.08 million was lost at the Cobden Golf Club.

Both figures represent a decline on losses posted during the 2012-13 financial year, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation data showed.

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