Community urged to send letters opposing Wallan pokies increases
Wallan Gateway Church and the Victorian Local Governance Association are encouraging Mitchell Shire residents to submit letters to oppose the addition of 20 poker machines at Hogans Hotel.
The North Central Review reports that Mitchell Shire voted unanimously to appeal the additional pokies machines at the venue, going to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
In May, Hogans’ application for the new poker machines was approved by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.
Last week, a community session hosted by Wallan Gateway Church and the VLGA gave residents an opportunity to write letter to VCAT explaining why they were opposed to the additional poker machines.
“We have been actively supporting the Mitchell Shire Council in opposing the poker machines at Hogans Hotel,” church pastor Milton Oliver said.
“The purpose of this meeting is to help empower your voice and make sure that your voices collectively area heard in the right places, particularly at VCAT.
“Gambling always does harm, it’s just a question of degree.
“So we can say, ‘you know what, we’ll live with $4.6 million getting sucked out of our community by these vacuum cleaners they call poker machines. Or we can do nothing and watch $7 million get sucked out of the community.”
Mr Oliver said the community members had to stand together to make their voices heard.
“If the community does not stand up…nothing is going to change. The backbone of the case that Mitchell Shire are building will be built on your submissions – your letters,” he said.
The session also included guest speaker Ian Correia who spoke about his battle with gambling.
“My gambling started at the age of 15. I would save up my pocket money and walk an hour and a half to school and an hour and a half home just so I had the money to gamble at the TAB, which was halfway down the road as I travelled home,” Mr Correia said.
By 2003, after being unable to manage his house-bill payments, Mr Correia had 10 credit cards, all of which totalled more than $120,000 in debt.
“I started to become severely depressed, I started to have anxiety attacks and panic attacks where I had to pull over on the side of the side and sit there for two hours frozen, because I was so worried about what was happening to me financially.
“It had cost me my family, it had cost me my friends, it had almost cost me my job and almost cost me my life.”
Victorian Local Government Association community engagement officer Rose O’Leary said ‘local voices’ were critical to make the appeal successful.
“You are the people that know the community better than anyone. The members from VCAT are highly unlikely from this area, but I think it’s important you tell them your story as a community member,” she said.
Hogan’s Hotel to add 20 new poker machines
The North Central Review reported in May that Hogan’s Hotel in Wallan will increase its machine numbers from 45 to 65 after a hearing decision handed down in April.
As a condition of the new permit, Hogan’s Hotel must increase its community contributions to $100,000 a year for as long as any of the additional gaming machines are in operation.
If the contributions are not allocated, the operation of the gaming machines must cease until the outstanding contributions are paid.
In March, Mitchell Shire Council voted unanimously to oppose the application and make a submission to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation at a special council meeting.
As part of the consideration, council commissioned an independent socio-economic assessment of the application.
Council presented the report along with a range of other information raising concerns about the potential for gambling harm.
Several agencies based in the shire also raised concerns with the commission and took part in the hearing.
A Mitchell Shire Council spokesperson said the additional gaming machines would have a detrimental impact on the shire.
“An independent report prepared for Mitchell Shire Council showed there would be a detrimental social and economic impact of $6.84 million if the new 20 new machines were introduced,” the spokesperson said.
“Council is disappointed in the decision and will consider its position once the commission releases the details around their decision.”