Pokies unlikely despite permit extension

ELECTRONIC gaming machines remain unlikely to be installed at South Morang’s Commercial Hotel, despite the City of Whittlesea voting to extend a permit for their installation at this month’s meeting.

Council opposed the hotel’s application in 2016 to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, VCGLR, for a licence for 40 gaming machines.

The hotel subsequently lodged an appeal with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, VCAT.

VCAT upheld council’s decision to refuse a licence for gaming machines, but approved a planning permit allowing the hotel to make additions and alterations.

As a result of VCAT’s decision, the planning permit for hotel alterations and the permit for the installation of gaming machines were due to expire at different times.

Council’s decision at this month’s meeting extended the permit for the installation of gaming machines, but a report prepared by council officers said it would not result in the machines actually being installed.

“The [gaming machines] have not been installed on the site, or works undertaken, because VCGLR refused the application for a gaming licence. So, while VCAT granted the applicant planning permission for the [gaming machines] and associated building works, VCAT upheld the VCGLR’s decision not to approve the necessary gaming licence,” the report said.

Council originally opposed the installation of the gaming machines due to the ‘increased vulnerability of the City of Whittlesea’s community to the significant social impacts associated with [them]’.

A total of 128 objections to the hotel’s application were filed in 2016.

Council director of partnerships, planning and engagement Julian Edwards said there were no legal grounds on which council could oppose the extension of the permit.

“Based on the relevant planning considerations for extending the time of a permit, there is no justification in this instance for refusing to extend the time,” he said.

“There has been no change in circumstance, no change in the proposal since the matter was decided by VCAT.

“It’s also important to note that whilst this is an extension to the planning permit, the operators still don’t have a gaming licence so they still can’t actually act on this component of the permit.”

Administrator Bruce Billson said if council voted to oppose the extension of the permit, it could ‘place the municipality at considerable risk of costs and other implications’.

“To refuse the application we would need to see some material change in either the planning controls, land uses or some kind of alteration to the plans, and there’s been none of those things,” he said.

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