COUNCIL TWICE OVERRULED BLOCKING APPLICATION FOR MORE POKIES

In Gaming - News by Clyde Mooney

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The Langwarrin Hotel will go ahead with its twice-approved additional poker machines, despite continued cries by a dissenting Frankston Council for more power.

Beretta’s Langwarrin Hotel in Langwarrin is a large-format club-style hotel with a broad offering of dining, entertainment, functions and gaming. There is a strong community and family focus, which includes a ‘Kids Club’ and play area, sponsorship of three local sporting teams and regular charity initiatives.

langwarrin-hotel_kids-club_webThe Hotel applied last year for an additional 10 EGMs, which it said would help fund several aspects of development including the $700,000 expansion and weatherproofing of the kids play area. There would also be three new fulltime positions created, and an additional $10,000 annual donation, on top of the existing $80,000 donation, to local care charity Theodora House.

In late March of this year, the proposal met with approval by the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) – just as Frankston Council councillors unanimously refused a planning permit, focusing on the supposed detriment to the children of an improved play facility in part funded by poker machines.

The VCGLR noted Langwarrin as “an area of relative advantage” and stressed the protective measures in place to identify problem gambling.

In favour of the decision, the VCGLR noted that the Frankston municipal limit is 954 EGMs and that there are currently 591 machines.

The Hotel was forced to appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), and in August VCAT similarly ruled in favour of the application – overturning Council’s denial of the planning permit.

VCAT reiterated the responsible gambling measures in place, and the broader benefits of the proposed works.

“This will enable the playground to operate on a year-round indoor basis. We were told this playground already is and will remain properly managed and the operator will ensure the relevant parents do not ‘disappear to the gaming room’.

“Within these appropriate parameters, we expect there will be many parents living in Langwarrin with young children where this year-round indoor aspect of the intended upgraded playground will provide some valued ‘time-out’.”

Also cited was a previous ruling involving the Royal Benalla Hotel that noted “problem gambling is a phenomenon that cannot be accurately measured and, even if it could, its consequences are impalpable and difficult to subject to a purely economic analysis”.

Council then pushed for the play area works to be completed within two years. Owners of the Hotel, Beretta’s, wanted four years. VCAT compromised, ruling it to be done in three years. Council has reported described VCAT’s decisions as “disappointing”.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform* took the opportunity to poll candidates for the upcoming (22 October) Victorian Council elections, asking their views as to Councils having “proper authority over the location of poker machines in their respective communities”.

Unsurprisingly, 98 per cent of the 493 candidates that responded, including all 11 of the 36 Frankston candidates that did respond, said they supported more power for Councils.

A spokesperson for state Labor Gaming Minister Marlene Kairouz said the checks and balances are there for the right reasons, and they are doing their job.

“There is strong legislation in place to clearly separate gaming areas from other areas in facilities used by families. Venues are regularly inspected by the VCGLR to ensure they are complying with these standards.”

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Staff at Langwarrin Hotel. Image: Facebook