Wallan residents encouraged to go to VCAT

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Community urged to send letters opposing Wallan pokies increases

A Wallan pub looking to add an extra 20 poker machines to its venue is facing stiff resistance from residents.

Last Thursday night, a public meeting was held against Hogan’s Hotel’s application for additional poker machines, who encouraged residents to lodge an appeal with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Representatives from the Wallan Gateway Chuch, Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) and Nexus Primary Health spoke with about 30 people on how gambling addiction affected the community and what the community can do to take action..

Following the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation approval of the venue’s application for an additional 20 pokies, citing a neutral community impact, the Mitchell Shire Council unanimously voted to appeal the decision at VCAT.

At the time of the approval decision in April, a spokeperson for the council said “an independent report prepared for Mitchell Shire Council showed there would be a detrimental social and economic impact of $6.84 million if the 20 new machines were introduced.”

The additional poker machines form part of Hogan’s Hotel’s $2.45 million upgrade project. The upgrade includes a new dining area, lounge and further extensions. The makeup of the upgrades will be determined upon the planning permit approval.

The appeal by the residents is set to take place in February or March 2020.

Attendees of last Thursday’s meeting were encouraged to share their stories to assist in the submission to VCAT in a written submission or video submission filmed by council staff.

Information packs distributed to attendees

The VLGA also distributed packs to attendees containing information about the application, how to make a submission, what details to include in their submission and statistics about gambling in the Mitchell Shire Council along with a statement of grounds form to make a submission.

Wallan Gateway Church senior pastor Milton Oliver told The North Central Review that the meeting was to empower the residents and ensure its voices were heard in the right places, which would assist in ensuring the best possible result for them.

“We want to see this decision from the VCGLR (Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation) reversed just as it was over in Romsey several years ago when the community did exactly what we’re doing tonight,” he said.

“This decision by the VCGLR to grant another 20 poker machines will set a dangerous precedent, making it extremely difficult to keep the reins on the demands and designs of the gambling industry in the future.”

Nexus Primary Health chief executive Suzanne Miller highlighted the health impacts of gambling addiction.

“It’s a complex issue. It’s an issue that we’ve all seen, but the access to gambling opportunities has never been as great, and very few people seek help,” she said.

“What strikes me from problem behaviours like drug abuse, alcohol abuse and even family violence is that there’s more shame associated with saying, ‘I have a problem with gambling’ than any of those other problems.

“We had 55 people come to us for financial counselling last year, that’s one person a week, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg that shows no signs of breaking.”

Hogan’s Hotel has been trading in Wallan in 1981. It was extensively renovated in 1999 and in 2011-2012, it built Wallan’s first motel.

Wallan is a town located 45 kilometres north of Melbourne. It has experienced a significant period of growth over the past decade which has seen its median property price soar as a result. It serves as a midway point between the city and Seymour, which gives it a semi- rural/suburban feel.

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