24 Sep

Tribunal set to determine legitimacy of Shamrock Hotel’s pokies bid

The Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo, Victoria is one of the state’s most historic landmarks, standing tall since 1854. Located on the city’s main street of Pall Mall, its gorgeous architecture, indicative of Victorian times, has been a staple of the community for more than 150 years. Renovations have taken place on multiple occasions throughout that time, but the structure’s manifest glory has always remained intact. Earlier this year, the Shamrock Hotel applied for a different kind of renovation, looking to add 20 new pokies to the establishment, but the matter instantly became one of large debate among the southeast Australian community.

The Bendigo landmark is already home to 45 poker machines, which should be more than enough to accommodate the overnight visitors of the 28-room hotel. However, a multitude of visitors come for the establishments restaurants and live events, thus additional pokies would not go unused. But availability is not what drove the owners to apply for the extra poker machines. The hotel is preparing for a massive refurbishment of the building, and is hoping to raise money to fund the endeavor via the proceeds harvest from those new gambling amusements.

An additional 20 pokies would bring the total to 65 at the Shamrock, but members of the Bendigo council are wholly opposed to the plan. In fact, they’ve been challenging the Shamrock Hotel’s bid to install the new pokies for much of 2014, and if the council gets its way – which is not entirely out of the question – the Shamrock may have to find a new source of funding for its upcoming remodeling project.

The Bendigo council claims that the hotel would be violating Victorian law by installing more pokies. According to legal statutes in the state, the installment of new poker machines is prohibited along shopping strips. The argument has been taken up with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), which has agreed to hold a hearing on the issue before the year is out.

Back in April, when the owner of the hotel, Jim Hogan, originally applied for authorization to install the new pokies, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation saw no cause to deny the application. Approval was granted in a timely fashion, despite the criticism that came from the city’s council. Although the reason behind the state’s approval was never specifically disclosed, in all reality, it would seem that Bendigo’s pre-existing poker machines, which date beyond the Victorian law that now prohibits such devices in strip shopping centres, were likely a key factor in the commission’s consent.

When the Victorian gaming commission first approved of the bid, Prue Mansfield, a member of the Bendigo council, voiced her opinion on the matter, stating that it should be up to the VCAT to decipher the implications of state law. “The State Government introduced into the planning scheme that poker machines were prohibited in strip shopping centres and that we introduced at a point in time and the legal debate is around how that actually gets interpreted.”

The VCAT will assemble to discuss the hotel’s eligibility to install the new pokies sometime in December.