Monash ordered to issue permit for pokies venue expansion

MONASH Council has been ordered by the state’s peak tribunal to issue a planning permit to a Clayton hotel following a bitter battle to deny the pokies operator a chance to expand its premises.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has ordered the council to allow the L’Unico Hotel to expand its venue, but it limited the number of patrons to 250 after 6pm.

However, L’Unico still faces a battle over installing seven extra poker machines approved by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation last year.

Monash Council has launched an appeal with VCAT against the commission, in an effort to cap L’Unico’s poker machines at 28.

The most recent planning decision is a bittersweet blow to Monash Council which has been fighting to reject the development due to concerns over how it will impact nearby residents.

‘‘We’re concerned that the extra customers will be parking in residential streets and waking up residents in the early hours of the morning,’’ Monash mayor Micaela Drieberg said.

‘‘We tried our best to limit the disruption to residents. So while we’re unhappy with VCAT’s overall  decision, it’s good the patron numbers were cut back a bit.’’

The council is now hoping that its appeal to VCAT will overturn the gambling commission’s approval of seven new poker machines in the suburb. 

The VCGLR  last year approved L’Unico’s bid to raise the number of poker machines from 28 to 35.

Monash currently has 1000 pokie machines, making it the municipality with the highest number in metropolitan Melbourne.

In the 2010-11 financial year, Monash gamblers lost over $122 million on electronic gaming machines and at L’Unico alone, more than $5 million went through the slots.

“We’re hopeful that VCAT will give us a fair hearing on our concerns and come down on the side of protecting our community’s welfare,’’ Cr Drieberg said.

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