Odds stacked against hotel

Hannah Hammoud

Two local councils have joined forces to call on the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) to reject a hotel’s application for extended trading hours in its gambling room.

At their respective council meetings on October 17, both Maribyrnong and Brimbank councils moved a notice of motion to make a submission to the VGCCC opposing the Braybrook Hotel’s application to extend the trading hours of its gambling room from 1am to 3am.

In 2022-23 Brimbank recorded the highest losses to electronic gaming machines of any Victorian local government area, totalling $172.8 million.

Speaking at the Brimbank council meeting, Cr Virginia Tachos said the notice of motion was crucial in protecting the community from gambling harm.

“I’m very concerned about the devastating impacts that gambling has on our community and in particular the prevalence and accessibility of electronic gaming machines,” she said

“… The Braybrook Hotel is also located within the city of Maribyrnong but lies just a metre away from the Brimbank border. This is deeply concerning for our community and the Maribyrnong community so that’s why this is a joint resolution.”

Cr Tachos said an extension of the gambling room’s trading hours is likely to have a negative impact on the community, and will set a precedent for other venues in Victoria to also apply for an extension of trading hours.

“Other clubs close their doors and then the patrons will just move on to this [hotel] and continue the spiral of gambling,” she said.

Speaking at the Maribyrnong council meeting, Cr Cuc Lam said she supported council making a submission to the VGCCC to oppose the increased trading hours.

In 2021-22 Maribyrnong recorded more than $50 million in losses to electronic gaming machines.

During the same year, in 2021-22 the VGCCC reported that players at the Braybrook Hotel lost more than $7 million though the hotel’s electronic gaming machines.

Cr Lam said gambling can cause significant harm to individuals, families and communities.

“Maribyrnong council plays an important role in the socioeconomic impact that Victorian clubs and hotels with electronic gaming machines have on the community and local businesses,” she said.

Earlier in the year, on July 16, the state government announced sweeping reforms designed to prevent gambling harm and anti-money laundering measures.

Following on in October, the Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation Minister Melissa Horne announced a bill to enforce mandatory closure periods for all gaming machine areas in venues, except Crown Casino, between 4am and 10am.

In the report outlined by Maribyrnong council at the meeting, council noted that the changes will mean the Braybrook Hotel will no longer be able to open its gambling room from 8am once the mandatory closures come into effect by mid-2024.

Speaking about the bill Minister Horne said the mandatory closure period is important to prevent and reduce gambling-related harm.

“Closing gaming areas between 4am and 10am will give people an important break to reassess and walk away,” she said.

The Braybrook Hotel was contacted for comment.