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Mitchell Shire goes to VCAT to fight 20 new machines

Thu, Jun 20, 3:56pm by Staff Writer

Mitchell Shire Council will go to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to appeal the decision to approve an extra 20 gaming machine at Hogan’s Hotel in Wallan.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation last month approved Hogan’s application for an additional 20 gaming machines, the North Central Review reports.

Council made its decision at a special confidential meeting last week and is now preparing to lodge an appeal with VCAT.

If a review at VCAT occurs, the tribunal will consider all evidence and submissions to make its own decision on the merits of the application.

Mitchell Shire Mayor Bill Chisholm said many people in the community had expressed anger, concern and disappointment about the commission’s decision.

“We have also heard strong concerns from many organisations and service providers involved in assisting people who are experiencing gambling harm,” he said.

“This council is concerned about the negative effects of gambling harm in our community, particularly in a growth area with areas of significant social disadvantage.”

“Council has a legislated duty of care to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of our community.

“This is also supported through council’s Electronic Gaming Machine Policy, Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan and Advocacy Priorities.”

Cr Chisholm said while there was no guarantee of success from the appeal, it was important to take action.

“We want to do our part to protect the long-term wellbeing of our community into the future,” he said.

Following a hearing in April, the hotel’s application to increase its gaming machines from 45 to 65 was approved.

As a condition of the new permit, the hotel must increase its community contributions to $100,000 a year for as long as any additional gaming machines are in operation.

Hogan’s management declined to comment on the council’s appeals plans.

Reasons Hogan’s was given 20 new poker machines

Gaming machines not reaching their cap in Mitchell Shire and ‘no net detriment’ to the community were two reasons detailed in a report by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation’s decision to accept an application by Hogan’s Hotel to install 20 extra gaming machines.

Economic benefits identified include expenditure on capital words and additional employment while social benefits identified include improved facilities and the impact of the community contributions.

“The applicant is a significant contributor to the social fabric of the community in which it is located and the community will be enhanced by the applicant’s contributions,” the report said.

Negative impacts identified by the report include increased problem gambling expenditure, the possibility of an increased incidence and potential impact of problem gambling on the community and community attitude.

“A number of individuals and community groups opposed the application, however the opposition generally expressed opposition to electronic gaming machines in general rather than the specific proposal before the commission,” the report said.

A Mitchell Shire council spokesperson said an independent report prepared for council showed there would be a detrimental social and economic impact of $6.84 million if the 20 new machines were introduced.

Mitchell Shire wants pokies warning messages

Mitchell Shire Council is calling on the state government to introduce warning signs on all poker machines in the state.

The North Central Review reported last month that council is calling for the change in a further stance against poker machines.

Deputy mayor David Atkinson moved the motion, which was seconded by Cr Annie Goble, and passed unanimously.

The stand comes after council made a submission to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation opposing the application for an additional 20 machines at Hogan’s Hotel in Wallan.

Cr Atkinson said pokies were the most addictive form of gambling and there was a fundamental issue with the product.

“Electronic gaming machines are designed to keep you playing and programmed to lose money. Stronger regulation is needed to make our community healthier,” he said.

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