Wangaratta RSL will receive 18 new pokie machines, with the government granting approval after a long public debate about whether the addition of more gaming machines would result in an increase of problem gambling and domestic violence in the area.
The news comes just days after the Victorian government announced it is freezing the number of pokies allowed to operate in the state until 2042.
The approval of the machines brings the number of pokies in Wangaratta’s RSL up from 32 to 50, making it the biggest pokies venue in Wangaratta. Wangaratta is licensed to offer 214 electronic gaming machines, but there are currently only 136 in operation.
The new machines are expected to generate around $87,163 in profits each year, with some concerned the new pokies will take profits away from the other three licensed gaming rooms in the area.
Wangaratta RSL members have been lobbying for the new machines to help finance the clubs move to a new premise in the Old Sydney Hotel. The revenue generated from the machines will be used to hire new staff and develop the new bistro and events area.
The RSL’s senior vice president Andrew Kay was pleased with the news of the approval, saying “It will assist us in being able to operate as an RSL and assist our members.”
Mr Kay acknowledged that the RSL has responsibilities when it came to providing gambling support, and that the branch is committed to investing money into harm minimisation programs as part of the approval conditions.
The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation granted approval for the new machines after determining the area presented a “low risk” for problem gambling and increased levels of violence. Approval was granted on the condition the RSL makes an annual $25,000 donation to community groups that provide gambling and domestic violence support.
A statement released by the commission said, “The general community attitude towards this application has been mixed.
“The commission is satisfied that the potential for an increase in problem gambling as a result of this application is low.”
The application for more pokie machines was not supported by the local council, the community or rival gaming venue, the Wangaratta Club.
Rural City of Wangaratta deputy mayor Harvey Benton voted against approval of the machines, but said the council will have to deal with the commission’s decision.