Castlemaine pokies ban wages on

AN appeal against 65 poker machines in Castlemaine is likely to fail, according to Maryborough Highland Society general manager Malcolm Blandthorn. 

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal is hearing a case brought by the Mount Alexander Shire and Enough Pokies in Castlemaine.

The groups argue the Maryborough Highland Society shouldn’t be allowed to create a new venue with pokie machines. 

But Mr Blandthorn said it was up to the council to prove the previous approval from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation was wrong. 

“We’re very confident in what we do and how we go about this,” he said. “We’ve got nothing to hide. 

“We’re a not-for-profit and it’s about creating great hospitality facilities for the community. 

“In order to set up such a club and finance it, you do require pokies.” 

Mount Alexander Shire mayor Michael Redden said VCAT usually found in favour of those looking to install poker machines. 

But he said the council was still “in with a good chance”.

“VCAT must decide if it would be to the social and economic determinant or benefit,” he said. 

“The council decided it would be a social detriment to the community, and we found it might be economic neutral. 

“It is a balancing thing. 

“But we did a survey of people in the whole shire which found 65 per cent of people opposed the idea.”

Cr Redden said the effects of problem gambling had been ignored in the debate. 

“We received a letter from all the medical professionals in Castlemaine begging for this not to go ahead, saying problem gambling caused suicide, bankruptcy, divorce and depression,” he said. 

“We have figures to suggest 40 per cent of all poker machines’ money comes from problem gamblers, affecting families and people who probably can’t afford it.”

Mr Blandthorn said he expected the VCAT process to be finished tomorrow, and Cr Redden said the appeal was probably the final chance the council had to stop the plans.

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