Bendigo Stadium wins pokies fight at VCAT

THE Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has approved the installation of 30 new poker machines at the Bendigo Stadium on the provision it upgrades its facilities.

VCAT yesterday overruled a City of Greater Bendigo Council decision not to grant a planning permit for new machines after two hearings and two appeals.

Bendigo Stadium tabled two different plans with VCAT to extend its operations.

The stadium must start construction of one by August 2015 and be substantially completed by 2017 or lose their extra poker machines.

The $12 to $14 million “grand plan” comprises an additional three multi-purpose courts and a show court, which could cater for up to 4000 people.

The other plan involves three additional courts in an outer building and an extension to the current bistro space.

Bendigo Stadium chief executive officer Eric Pascoe said the extra revenue gained from the pokies would help it reach the $7 million required to construct the new facilities. 

He said a further $5-7 million would have to be funded by local, state and federal governments.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the city,” Mr Pascoe said.

“If we have more functions and shows on in our new facilities then the hotels and public can benefit, too.

“The next is step to sit down with city council because they wouldn’t have many places wanting to invest that much money into something.” 

Council planning and development director Prue Mansfield said she was disappointed with VCAT’s decision as it went against council policy which was opposed to more machines in the municipality.

“We are obviously very disappointed,” she said.

“The council continues to be concerned about the negative impact of problem gambling on the social and economic wellbeing of the community, which is the whole basis of our policy.”

Ms Mansfield said despite the let-down, the council was pleased with the conditions imposed on the stadium.

“One of the things we’re really pleased about is that the stadium must build their plans or lose their machines,” she said.

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