Valley Inn loses pokies punt
THE state’s gambling authority has knocked back an application from the Valley Inn to install an additional 10 pokies at the venue.
When pub co-owner Tony Eastmure applied for the increase of pokies at the South Geelong venue from 29 to 39 earlier this year, the City of Greater Geelong (COGG) responded by allocating $30,000 for legal counsel to fight the bid in a hearing before the Victorian Gambling Control and Casino Commission (VGCCC).
The city also conducted a Social and Economic Impact Assessment that surveyed community attitudes and feedback towards the application, resulting in 320 responses that found more than 86 per cent of people were opposed to it.
Submitted as supporting evidence to the commission, the city also highlighted statistics on the losses from punters at the venue and in the region that show $72.6 million had been lost on gaming machines in Greater Geelong in the 2021-22 financial year, including $972,770 at the Valley Inn.
Mr Eastmure’s supporting documentation for the pokies increase included a $2 million commitment to develop a roof top deck at the pub that would benefit the local community by employing local trades.
The VGCCC found that while a majority of the intended contractors were local, the lead construction company was not.
“It appears that the works are proposed to be carried out by Schiavello, which is located outside the Geelong LGA,” the commission stated.
Mr Eastmure also sought to justify the pokies increase on the grounds that more people were moving to the region.
“Geelong (including South Geelong) is experiencing massive growth with the establishment of new areas including Armstrong Creek… expanding our offering we will also be catering to demand for additional entertainment facilities in the area.”
In its lengthy decision as to the reasons why it was refusing the application, the VGCCC highlighted the number of existing gambling venues within 2.5 kilometres of the Valley Inn.
“There are already 271 EGMs across six venues (including the existing 29 accessible at the premises), with a further eight venues located between 2.5km and 5km from the premises.”
The gambling regulator was particularly scathing of the Valley Inn owners when it discovered the venue had “consciously and deliberately” refused to comply with, and remained in breach of, its original 2016 gaming licence.
These breaches included a failure of the venue to make annual contributions of $30,000 to not-for-profit community groups and sporting organisations.
“In failing to inform the Commission of its financial position and inability to pay community contributions and instead deciding to trade itself out of trouble ‘in defiance of its obligations under the venue operator’s licence and the GR Act’, the Applicant denied the Commission the opportunity to consider granting a deferral of those obligations.
“The Applicant failed to inform the Commission of its non-compliance until lodging the Application for an additional 10 EGMs (electronic gaming machines) at the Premises … has not apologised to the Commission or shown any contrition or remorse for its noncompliance.
“For the past five years, the Applicant has treated compliance with its obligations under the venue operator’s licence and the GR Act, as well as the Commission generally, with contempt.”
A COGG spokesperson said the Valley Inn’s owners can appeal the decision in the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).