Council knocks back pokies donation

Photo by Amit Lahav on Unsplash 223307_01

By Oliver Lees

Macedon Ranges council has knocked back a $15,000 donation for community projects in Gisborne because the money was raised from gaming machines.

The Victorian Tavern in Gisborne had offered up the donation toward the council’s Community Funding Scheme, which provides grants to not-for-profit groups for programs and initiatives that benefit local residents.

However following more than an hour of debate the council declined the funds because it would go against its stance on gambling.

Cr Janet Pearce said it would be contradictory for council to give a scheme designed to improve community health, funds that have been raised through electronic gaming machines.

“What we are providing is often grants for mental health, for community gardens, for sports projects… focusing on health and wellbeing,” Cr Pearce said.

“So I don’t feel that councillors should act as a conduit to this sort of money, I don’t necessarily see that as acceptable. I think it’s actually against what we stand for as a community.”

Cr Rob Guthrie said the Victorian Tavern should find another means to distribute its funds.

“Gaming venues all over Victoria… they all have to have these community benefit programs,” Cr Guthrie said.

“While we have this coming through council it’s almost giving it [pokies] some credibility, and I believe council should not be giving it this recognition.

“I certainly don’t support electronic gaming machines, I never have. I never will.”

Cr Bill West said the Victorian Tavern donation would help worthy projects.

“Basically council’s throwing away the chance to possibly see $15,000 distributed through viable organisations,” Cr West said.

“I think we’re throwing money away.”

Cr Geoff Neil said recipients of council grants are made aware of the origin of grant money and can accept or reject it.

He said groups should be able to make their own decisions.

However mayor Jennifer Anderson said it was important the council took responsibility for identifying the source of all money that comes through it.

“To be told, well you can have your $6000, but it comes from the Victorian Tavern, are you still willing to accept it, that’s a really hard call,” Cr Anderson said.

“We can find an extra $15,000 from other places”

According to data from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor regulations, more than $774,000 was spent across the shire’s three gaming venues in the year to December 2020.

Victorian Tavern was contacted for comment.