Bendigo Stadium pokie fight back to VCAT

Bendigo Stadium’s bid for extra pokies is heading back to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) and could set a precedent on local government control over gaming venues that  want to expand.

Bendigo Stadium wants to add 30 new poker machines to its gaming facilities, and the state’s gaming regulator has approved the licences.

But the City of Greater Bendigo – which has a policy opposing any more machines coming into the city – moved to block the expansion by refusing to issue a planning permit.

This decision was appealed at a VCAT hearing in July and a ruling was expected several weeks ago.

Instead VCAT yesterday called a second hearing – starting on October 15 – to look into complex legal arguments around planning permit requirements which were raised at the July hearing.

City of Greater Bendigo’s director of planning and development Prue Mansfield said VCAT vice president Mark Dwyer would consider whether the proposed installation and use of the additional machines at Bendigo Stadium actually required a planning permit.

“Following this hearing, VCAT will deliberate and review evidence from both hearings and will make a decision on this issue within four to five weeks,” Ms Mansfield said.

It is understood Mr Dwyer has dealt with similar cases before where the need for a new permit for existing pokie venues was called into doubt.

The outcome of this case could establish a precedent either way.

Bendigo Stadium chief executive officer Eric Pascoe said despite the delay he was still keen to get the extra machines installed.

Mr Pascoe has earlier said that if the new machines were approved, the stadium would spend $7 million to improve on-site facilities including the option of a new stand-alone arena.

“Nothing has changed from our point of view, this legal argument has just got in the road,” he said yesterday.

“It is disappointing that it takes so long to go through these things and the extra expense as well.”

Ms Mansfield said it was hard to know if council would have any other way to legally block the new machines’ installation if the stadium’s argument was carried.

“It depends on the decision and the reasons for the decision,” she said.

“The only chance for another avenue would be if there were certain reasons given for a decision and we could appeal on those grounds.”.

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