By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

Australian Leisure and Hospitality (ALH) is appealing a rejected application for 40 EGMs at Commercial Hotel in South Morang, Victoria.

The Woolworths-backed pub group applied in 2016 to have 40 EGMs installed at Commercial Hotel, which currently only has a TAB wagering kiosk as a wagering/gaming offering. As part of its application, ALH stated that if approved, they would transfer 20 EGMs from their surrounding hotels in the Whittlesea municipality – 10 from Plough Hotel, six from Excelsior Hotel and four from Bundoora Taverner – meaning the request would add an additional 20 EGMs to the Whittlesea LGA.

Both the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) and the City Of Whittlesea rejected the application, suggesting that the EGMs would cause financial and social detriment to the local community.

Whittlesea mayor Ricky Kirkham applauded VCGLR’s decision, citing public utcry over the proposal.

“This is a massive win for our community and reflects the strong opposition from local residents, local health and community service agencies and Council to the application for more poker machines in a municipality that is already suffering as a result of them.

“The City of Whittlesea is already paying a terrible price for existing poker machines with over $103 million lost to poker machines each year by our residents.”

ALH is in the middle of an appeal of the decision at the Victorian Civil Administration Tribunal (VCAT), where it has also asked for a review of the planning permit application.

A statement by ALH COO Peter Hardy detailed the purchase of the Commercial Hotel in 2010, and stated that it was “predicated on the introduction of EGMs into the hotel” and that “it is unlikely that the Board would have approved the acquisition of the hotel if EGMs were not anticipated as part of its future development.”

As part of the appeal, ALH prepared a trading summary of the hotel, which shows that the hotel is currently operating at a cumulative loss roughly $10,000 per week, and that a significant improvement to the food and beverage offering of the hotel, along with the EGMs would improve trading performance.

In a separate statement by David Curry, ALH’s head of regulatory and corporate affairs, the group’s commitment to responsible gambling practices was once highlighted – as it was in all of ALH’s statements. While listing ALH’s support of local community intiatives, Curry also stated that ALH was committed to an additional $100,000 annual community contribution for the first ten years of EGM operations. The contributions would include $40,000 to Whittlesea Council for problem gaming initiatives.

The VCAT hearing has been adjourned until 17 August.

The Shout Team

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