Pokies plan is flawed, says EPIC

DAY three of the Castlemaine poker machine Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing proved costly for groups advocating the development.

The Maryborough Highland Society presented a financial projection for the proposed installation of 65 new poker machines in the town’s former Goods Shed.

VCAT deputy president Judge Mark Dywer said establishing the facts in the matter would help to alleviate community concerns.

Anti-poker machine group Enough Pokies in Castlemaine (EPIC) criticised the Maryborough Highland Society (MHS) for presenting a “flawed plan”, which including the signing of a management agreement during a lunch break at the hearing yesterday.

MHS general manager Malcolm Blandthorn conceded they were not adequately prepared ahead of the hearing, but stood by their cause.

“It’s going to be a tough call for the tribunal to make at the end of the day,” he said.

“We’re still very confident in what we are doing and feel that we are doing it for the right reasons.”

An EPIC spokeswoman said the development would come as a great cost to the Castlemaine community.

The spokeswoman said the group looked forward to presenting its evidence of the negative social and economic impacts of the proposal.

“The Maryborough Highland Society will be taking more than $5 million in loan repayments out of our community and they now tell us there is no guarantee that any of that money will come back to us,” she said. 

“This is an ill-conceived development that will come at a real social and economic cost for our community.”

Representing EPIC, barrister Ron Merkel said a number of confusing financial arrangements were clarified for all parties involved, including MHS members who were unaware of an arrangement to mortgage the development’s operations in Maryborough as security.

The hearing will continue this week and is subject to adjournment until later this year.

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