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January 25, 2022

Golden Wattle under pressure to remove pokie machines

The City of Adelaide is working with its Pirie Street tenant The Golden Wattle to remove the venue’s pokies, as per a 2019 decision to remove gaming machines from all council-owned properties.

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  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Pictures: Josh Geelen

The City of Adelaide is “working closely” with its tenant The Golden Wattle to find a “mutually beneficial” solution to the removal of the venue’s gaming machines, says Adelaide City Council strategic property and commercial associate director Shaun Coulls.

The removal of the machines stems from a decision made on 13 August 2019, in which council members resolved to not allow gambling machines under any new council lease agreements.

On 14 December 2021, the council administration provided elected members with an update on the removal of gaming machines from council-owned properties.

The report identified 110 Pirie Street (aka The Wattle) as the only council property with operational gaming machines. However, it also found the council cannot take away any legal right granted from a formal agreement, such as a lease agreement, to operate the machines.

“The business has a legal right to carry on a gaming business in council premises pursuant to the Memorandum of Lease,” the report says.

“The business right exists until [the] expiry of the lease arrangement.”

The Golden Wattle’s first day of trade was 6 October 2018 – over a year prior to the council’s decision to ban gambling on its properties.

The recent administrative report also says the “next steps” include “work[ing] with the lessee” to find an alternative business model to the machines.

The council did not respond to CityMag’s direct questions regarding other business models being explored, or when the public is expected to know the outcome of the discussions. They also did not say when the current lease is expected to expire.

“To protect the interests of Council and the lessee, we will not be making further comments until the process is concluded,” Shaun said in a statement.

The Golden Wattle also rejected CityMag’s interview request, but co-owner Dave Blumberg said in a statement: “We are aware of the council’s position on this matter, and are working with them towards an exit from gaming.

“But for now we won’t be making any further comments.”

Australian Hotel Association South Australia general manager Ian Horne told CityMag he supported the Golden Wattle in “any way” that allowed the business to remain viable.

But he said the Adelaide City Council had no power to remove the machines, as it is not part of the business’s current lease contract.

“I’m not privy to any negotiations going on with Golden Wattle, but I would assume that part of their agreement to change their business model and remove gaming would be some significant commercial benefit for them to assist their business in redirecting itself,” he said.

“[However], if the Golden Wattle don’t want to [find an alternative business model], they don’t have to do it.

“But it may well be an opportunity, and good luck to both parties if they can find common ground that suits them both.”

The activity comes months after the release of the South Australian Department for Human Services’s Gambling Harm Minimisation Investment Plan 2021-2026.

Minister for Human Services, Michelle Lensink, is quoted in the plan, saying the initiative intends to establish a “clear vision” for gambling harm minimisation and how to get there.

“Around two-thirds of South Australians participate in gambling, yet it can cause significant harm to them, their families and the wider community,” her statement says.

“Working together, with public and private sectors as well as local communities, we can strengthen our approach to gambling harm and build a safer, stronger South Australia.”

The report, published in November last year, says 65 per cent of South Australian adults gamble, with the third most popular gambling activity in 2018 being electronic gaming machines.

If you need immediate help with gambling support, call the helpline on 1800 858 858 or visit Gambling Help Online.

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