I’ve been looking at Victoria’s regional caps recently… more specifically, how ineffective they are. The system of applying caps on pokie numbers based on regions of “high socioeconomic disadvantage and high losses” just doesn’t work, especially when you add municipal caps into the deal. I’ve already looked at the City of Hume as an example; now I’m going to look at the City of Casey.
Let me say up front that Casey is my stamping ground. I live in Berwick (which lies outside the Casey regional cap) and I love it here. In most ways, Casey is a great place to live.
But Casey also has the dubious distinction of being the third-highest pokies-spending city in the state. Last financial year, over $119 million was lost on pokies in Casey; only Brimbank and Monash lost more.
Let’s see how much territory is covered by Casey’s regional cap, given that so much money is lost there.
That’s the regional cap portion blocked out in red. Like Hume, the Casey regional cap isn’t all that big. It covers Cranbourne, Hallam, Hampton Park, Doveton and Lynbrook, leaving the vast majority of Casey to fall under the municipal cap.
It should come as no surprise that nine of Casey’s thirteen pokies venues lie within the regional cap. Three clubs and six hotels, clustered together in a relatively small area, yet these venues took in almost $80 million last year. And just beyond the regional cap boundaries is another venue, the Fountain Gate Taverner. It’s the biggest earner in Casey, raking in just under $16 million last year, and it’s attached to the Fountain Gate shopping centre. This is wrong on so many levels.
The regional cap has done nothing for Casey. Whatever the original intention, the fact remains that most of the city’s venues lie within the regional cap, or just outside it. Casey’s regional cap is 614 poker machines, and it’s full. The industry has squeezed in as many machines as is legally possible. In contrast, the municipal cap covering the rest of the city is a comparatively-low 359 machines. It just doesn’t make sense.
At this point, I should mention that the Casey City Council seems to have woken up to this fact. They’re currently working on a draft EGM Strategy covering the next five years, and one of the key elements is a review of the Casey regional cap and the possible introduction of a single municipal cap covering the entire city. They’re also promising to pursue a zero-growth approach with regards to pokie numbers within Casey… which would impress me more if they hadn’t already approved two additional venues before taking this stance.
Still, I’m hopeful that these are steps in the right direction. It’s nice to know that the local council at least recognises these issues, and I’ll certainly be submitting my views on the draft policy. If you live in Casey, I urge you to do the same.
Next up, I’ll be looking at the City of Whittlesea… which should be interesting.