VCAT ruling on Castlemaine gaming license brings closure to pokie debate

MOUNT Alexander Shire mayor Michael Redden says VCAT’s decision has brought closure on the pokies issue that has divided the community for more than two years.

Cr Redden said the decision was on a knife’s edge but that it was clear new poker machines would be to the social detriment of the town. 

“It was a very difficult decision all along,” he said.

“There was disagreement to go ahead with the appeal. But we were convinced there was disadvantage for our community and it is vindication for that determination.”

With most historical VCAT decisions going in favour of gaming licenses, Cr Redden said yesterday’s ruling was a significant outcome.

Councillor Tony Bell – who called for the council to abandon the VCAT appeal because of high legal costs – said there would still be a division within the community.

“I’m pretty sure there’ll still be division. There’s still some animosity. But people have got to abide by the umpire’s decision. End of story,” Cr Bell said. 

Community group Enough Pokies in Castlemaine president David Stretch said he was thrilled with the result. 

“We were always confident at the end of the appeal hearing that the council would succeed,” he said. 

“We maintained there would be enormous damage to the town particularly by way of social detriments and that came out in the ruling.”

Mr Stretch said he wasn’t opposed to a new venue but said any business case that relied solely on poker machine revenue wasn’t worth having. 

He said the group’s attention would now turn to viable alternatives for venues in Castlemaine. 

“Particularly now the challenge now is what do we do with the old railway building – what can we do about giving older people in the community a venue?”

 “They’re questions we’re happy to be part of.” 

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