Bendigo Stadium lodge VCAT appeal to install 44 poker machines; hearing set for May

LEGAL FIGHT: Plans to install 44 poker machines at a White Hills hotel will be decided by Victoria's planning umpire at a hearing in May.

LEGAL FIGHT: Plans to install 44 poker machines at a White Hills hotel will be decided by Victoria's planning umpire at a hearing in May.

Victoria’s planning umpire will decide the fate of 44 proposed poker machines at a White Hills hotel after Bendigo Stadium confirmed it will appeal a previous decision by the state’s gambling regulator.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation in August rejected the stadium’s pokies plan, citing an “overall negative community attitude to gaming and the application” as part of its decision.

City of Greater Bendigo councillors in June voted to not support the plan, and the council opted against sending lawyers to the subsequent VCGLR hearing. 

Bendigo Stadium acting chairman Mark Lennox said an appeal has been lodged with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, with a hearing scheduled for May 7. 

“We believe we have a good chance. We don't believe the council is going to challenge the appeal,” he said.

A spokesperson for the City of Greater Bendigo confirmed the city would not send any representation to the VCAT hearing, suggesting it wasn’t the best way to spend ratepayers’ money. 

Mr Lennox said the organisation had surveyed residents close to the proposed pokies location – the Wellington Hotel, White Hills – and the majority weren’t opposed to a VCAT challenge.

“Gaming machines are tool to help us achieve our strategy of creating better sporting facilities for the community,” he said.

“Who complains about horse racing, and others, why do they think gaming machines are the only vice in this community?”

NO POKIES: The online petition addressed to Bendigo Stadium, encouraging them to drop their VCAT appeal.

NO POKIES: The online petition addressed to Bendigo Stadium, encouraging them to drop their VCAT appeal.

An online petition addressed to the stadium has emerged, imploring the organisation to withdraw its VCAT appeal. 

“The Wellington Hotel is in close proximity to the Holy Rosary Primary School. The Bendigo community does not want pokies to be normalised for local kids,” the petition read.

Bendigo Stadium was successful in a 2012 VCAT hearing, which allowed them to install another 30 poker machines.

Bendigo has 634 poker machines, with the cap in the municipality at 870.