Council to determine legality of machines

Regulator gives green light but city must analyse information

THE City of Greater Bendigo will determine whether an extra 20 poker machines at the Shamrock Hotel are legally prohibited.  

It follows a Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation decision to approve the machines. 

Councillors voted against the additional machines in February. The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation approved the changes on April 1, allowing the venue to run up to 65 machines.

The council's planning director Prue Mansfield said council previously believed the added machines were prohibited under the Planning and Environment Act, but had been presented with further information from owner Jim Hogan. 

"On the information we had, we believed the extra machines were prohibited but we will carefully analyse this added information," she said. 

"If we think they are still prohibited, we will fight the matter at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal."

Mr Hogan plans to use additional revenue from the machines and tax breaks to fund a $4 million redevelopment of the venue.

The regulator said the likely increase in problem gambling and negative social cost was low and noted the benefit of the redevelopment.

“After consideration of the material put forward by both the applicant and the council, it is concluded that the social and economic impacts of the proposal are likely to be positive,” its report read.

“The commission is satisfied that it should exercise its discretion to approve the application.”

Mr Hogan must undertake the redevelopment, which includes nine, five-star serviced apartments, gym and pool, or the gaming licence will revert back to 45 machines.

The body found the machines would generate up to $650,000 a year in new revenue, but Mr Hogan said most of that would be lost to tax.

“It won’t produce a lot of extra revenue but it will have significant tax savings,” he said.

“That will allow me to progress with stage one of the redevelopment."

Figures show Bendigo residents spent $546 per adult on pokies each year, six per cent lower than the regional average. 

The commission found overall gaming expenditure within Greater Bendigo had decreased by 16 per cent in real terms in the past five years. 

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