By Andrew Starke
A rural hotel has been refused permission to install 30 gaming machines after the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decided the negative social impact of their presence outweighed any economic advantages.
The owner of the Romsey Hotel, a traditional old country pub and the only hotel in the small rural town 65km northwest of Melbourne, had argued that planned renovations were not commercially viable without the income from the gaming machines.
Romsey is presently free of gaming machines.
The hotel initially won approval from the tribunal to install the machines, overturning a previous decision made by the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation.
However the Macedon Ranges Shire Council successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria and the tribunal was tasked with reconsidering the application.
The tribunal acknowledged that the Romsey Hotel’s owner, James Hogan, is an experienced publican in the area who wants to turn an old pub into “a family-friendly hotel with (for example) an upgraded bistro, sports bar and function room, which the town dearly needs”.
Hogan gave evidence on behalf of Romsey Hotel, which has owned the freehold and the business since 2003, and also owns the Wallan Hotel and the Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo.
However, in an 88-page judgment, tribunal president Justice Kevin Bell ruled that the likely economic impact of approval would be slightly positive while the likely social impact of approval would be strongly negative.
“I am therefore not satisfied that the net economic and social impact of approval will not be detrimental to the wellbeing of the community,” he said.
To read the full verdict, click here.