Bendigo Stadium abandons application for 44 poker machines at the Wellington Hotel in White Hills

UPDATE 4pm: Bendigo Stadium’s decision to scrap plans for new gaming machines at the Wellington Hotel has been welcomed by an advocacy group as campaigners turn their attention to the state election.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform had been involved in action against the application and had been organising a petition urging Bendigo Stadium not to appeal the case to VCAT.

The alliance’s director Susan Rennie said the decision was particularly important because Bendigo Stadium relied on access to council owned land to operate.

She said councils across Victoria were increasingly banding together to reduce Australia’s “world record levels of gambling harm”.

Ms Rennie said the alliance and the Victorian Local Government Association encouraged a range of local community groups to directly contact Bendigo Stadium opposing this application.

“Poker machines cause the most damage and amount to almost $14 billion of the estimated $25 billion lost to gambling in 2017, so the idea of installing more of them at a hotel opposite a primary school in Bendigo was particularly abhorrent,” she said.

“With Tasmanian Labor adopting a principled position to remove all poker machines from pubs and clubs, the next question is what pokies policies the Liberal and Labor parties will take to the 2018 Victorian election. 

“The Alliance is looking for decisive policies to reduce the $3 billion-plus a year lost on the existing 30,000 poker machines licences across Victoria.”

EARLIER: Bendigo Stadium Limited has withdrawn its VCAT application for gaming machines at the Wellington Hotel, and will be prioritising its focus on the new stadium expansion in west Bendigo.

BSL chairman Mark Lennox said the board decided it was in the best interests of its members to focus all available resources on the Bendigo Stadium expansion.

“The existing Wellington Hotel business, which has been leased by BSL since October 2015, will be retained in its existing form,” he said.

“It is business as usual for the Wellington. We have been building up the core business over the past two years, and we will ensure great customer experiences continue to be provided to the White Hills and Epsom communities.

“The board feels it is more prudent to reposition our focus towards delivering a great result at our west Bendigo sporting precinct.”

Chief executive officer Nathan O’Neill said the new Bendigo Stadium expansion was close to completion.

“We are excited by the opportunity to showcase the redevelopment to the community,” he said.

“Bendigo Stadium will be the largest and most advanced sporting and entertainment venue in regional Victoria, and it is vital that all our energies are directed towards making it a fantastic success.

“BSL is committed to supporting the development of active lifestyles through sport participation, and the investment in developing a state of the art facility is a true testament to this.”