New twist in pokies saga

The anti-pokies campaigners have fought a relentless battle against the hotel. 182710_01

By Rowan Forster

The proponent behind Officer’s proposed hotel and pokies venue has issued a potentially game-changing compromise in a bid to sway the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal.

Several weeks ago, Station Hotel director Timothy Rice withdrew from VCAT, seemingly abandoning his battle to have rejections by Cardinia Shire Council and the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation overturned.

However, since revealing that the withdrawal was a “temporary” measure, new details have emerged.

In a bid to appease the council and anti-gambling campaigners, Mr Rice decided to limit the operating hours of the hotel’s 80 proposed poker machines.

Instead of being open for 126 trading hours each week, it would only be accessible for 95 hours per week, fewer than 18 hours on any given day and no later than 2am.

Given that the application is expected to resurface later in 2019, the amended hours could potentially sway the state’s planning umpire.

In January, Mr Rice told the Gazette that the withdrawal was a “strategic move”, given the impending Officer Precinct Structure Plan.

He claims the PSP, due to be handed down in 2019, could further strengthen the case for a licensed hotel and gambling venue in Officer.

VCAT has also shed light on the scope of the development.

Two multi-storey buildings would be developed, one containing the hotel and an entertainment precinct which includes a bistro, dining areas, sports bar, a rooftop bar, function rooms and the controversial gaming room.

The hotel would accommodate 481 patrons.

Next door, a 52 room motel would operate in conjunction with the hotel.

While the anti-gambling community, including Bad Bets Australia, has been highly critical of the proposed hotel – some believe it is long overdue.

“Officer continues to grow, and we don’t have anywhere like this at the moment,” Douglas Huntly said.

“It’s bound to happen in the next few years with more and more people moving to the area.”

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