Legal blunder buys time in club’s rent fight


MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire is reconsidering its decision to increase the rent for The Hastings Club after being told the calculations on which it was based contravened the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 (the Act).

The original plan, which saw the club’s rent rise from about $4000 to $42,000 in the first year and climbing to $54,000 in three years, was met with dismay by the members and supporters of the Hastings Cricket and Football Social Club who immediately sought legal advice.

Councillors were last month (June) told by property and strategy manager Yasmin Woods that the calculation method she used in March “inadvertently contravenes” the act.

Councillors have now deferred making a decision on a “new” rent which used different methods to arrive at exactly the same amount.

In March Ms Woods had recommended the rent be $42,234 (plus GST), comprising $20,000 based on one third of the market value of the ground and one per cent of the club’s gaming room receipts. However, the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, wrote to say gaming venue operators were prohibited from entering into an agreement based on gaming machine revenue.

At council’s 27 June meeting Ms Woods urged council keep to her original rent suggestions – $42,234 in the first year, climbing to $52,234 by the fourth year – but did not tie the money to gaming receipts.

She said the amounts were “still considered … fair and reasonable” and quoted sections of the shire’s Responsible Gaming Strategy as justification: “To ensure that venues operating gaming machines on shire owned land make a positive contribution to the community.” The strategy notes that “the presence of gaming machines changes the nature of operations of a community club. Gaming machines are a commercial activity that attracts new financial resources to the venue, resources that are not available to [other] clubs.”

Ms Woods said The Hastings Club met the criteria for rent amounts above the first $10,000 to be “partly allocated to the Crown land known as Hastings Park and … on capital improvements to the reserve and part allocation to grants to community groups in the local Hastings area”.

First published in the Western Port News – 11 July 2017