Pokies plan for Castlemaine

A CASTLEMAINE group is setting its sights on a new pokies venue in the town.

The Castlemaine Sports and Community Club is hopeful of finalising a proposal for a new club in the next month.

Club spokesman Ian Braybrook said he expected some opposition but he said there was growing support for the plan.

“We’re confident we will eventually win,” he said. “There’s a hell of a lot of people who agree with us.”

The plan comes one year on from a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision to reject plans for 65 poker machines in the Castlemaine railway goods shed.

VCAT deputy president Mark Dwyer declared on February 14 last year the negative social impact of poker machines outweighed any moderate economic benefits.

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Mr Braybrook said that ruling prompted their group into action.

“We’ve been very active in negotiations with a number of people since then,” he said.

“But it’s a slow and frustrating job to get this sort of thing happening. It’s like walking in a minefield.”

Mr Braybrook said the plans were still under wraps but he confirmed the business model would be based on revenue from poker machines.

“It’s not a reasonable position to try and run a community club without pokies,” he said.

“It’s an essential ingredient.”

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He said that was bound to anger critics who joined the Mount Alexander Shire council in contesting the initial gaming venue in VCAT last year.

Community group Enough Pokies in Castlemaine attracted more than 1700 members to object to the goods shed plan.

Former President of the now-disbanded EPIC group David Stretch said he was confident there would be vocal opposition to any future pokies plans.

"I'm sure community opposition will continue to exist," he said. 

Another Castlemaine group called ‘People Not Pokies’ said it would oppose any plans for more poker machines in the town.

President Jeremy Forbes said the group “would not condone any more machines coming into Castlemaine". 

“I think any proposal would meet opposition," he said. "We're not opposed to people playing pokies. We just think there should be an alternative business model."

Maryborough Highland Society – who proposed the goods shed pokies venue – said they were not involved in the Sports and Community club’s new proposal. 

General manager Malcolm Blandthorn said the society had “washed their hands of any involvement” in Castlemaine since the VCAT decision.

Mount Alexander Shire mayor Michael Redden said the council would await any planning proposal.

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