Wed, Nov 28, 3:16pm by Staff Writer
A pub and club in Melbourne’s north has withdrawn its Supreme Court appeal to install poker machines.
South Morang’s Commercial Hotel will continue to have no poker machines after a two-year battle with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal came to an end.
The venues operators the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group’s original application for 20 pokie machines was rejected by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation in 2016.
There was objection from both the community and the local Whittlesea Council.
The company appealed the commission’s decision at VCAT, resulting in an 11-day hearing in the second half of 2017.
VCAT senior members upheld the commission’s original decisions, citing the concerns that the machines would have a negative community impact.
At the time, VCAT cited statistics that the pokie machine average annual expenditure in the Whittlesea shire was $679 per adult compared to the $575 average in Melbourne.
Is this a turning point as the normally ruthless @woolworths backflips and withdraws it’s Supreme Court pokies appeal after losing record long VCAT battle to put pokies in The Commercial Hotel. pic.twitter.com/Avodg4I1P5
— Stephen Mayne (@MayneReport) November 20, 2018
The pub planned to relocated 20 machines from other Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group venues to the Commercial Hotel.
Whittlesea’s mayor Lawrie Cox applauded the outcome, telling the Star Weekly “the successful outcome is the result of a collective effort from community, health and human service organisations.”
Cr Cox said, “Whittlesea residents already lose $300,000 to pokies every day and we have four of Victoria’s top 11 venues for poker machine losses in the City of Whittlesea.”
More than 2,500 people signed an online petition as part of the Pokies Play Whittlesea campaign, with another 3,000 having filled in postcards calling for pokies reform that includes no additional poker machines in the community.
Despite the City of Whittlesea feeling buoyant about this decision, the State Government recently increase the number of machines allowed in the municipality – granting permission for 199 more machines.
The City of Whittlesea is seeking to reform regulations concerning poker machines including $1 maximum bets, no additional machines, reduced operating hours for pokies venues and machine redesign to curb their harmful and addictive nature.
Victorians lost nearly A$2.7 billion on poker machines in the last financial year – the highest figure in a decade – with punters in the state’s most disadvantaged communities losing the most money.
Punters in the City of Brimbank were the biggest losers, gambling away A$139.5 million.
The Epping Plaza Hotel in Melbourne’s north was the only venue in the state to top A$20 million in losses on its 100 machines.
In nearby Mill Park, punters blew A$19.4 million at the Plough Hotel.
In figures taken from the Responsible Gambling website, residents of the City of Whittlesea spent A$299,939 per day on poker machines across its 691 machines.
Poker machines have become a contentious issue at state elections in Tasmania and Victoria.
Prior to the recent Victorian election, Greens leader Samantha Ratnam called for a phasing out of poker machines from pubs and clubs across the state within a decade.
“The pokies for too long have wreaked havoc across our communities,” Dr Ratnam said.
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