REPRESENTATIVES of the Ballarat RSL sub-branch have reacted angrily to this week’s approval of a planning permit for 30 poker machines at Oscars Hotel in Doveton Street.
RSL secretary Maurie Keating said a plan to locate the historic branch to Oscars was scuttled last year after Ballarat City Council advised pokies could not be approved for a strip shopping area.
The council this week approved 30 machines for the hotel in an 8-1 vote following lengthy debate about whether the section of Doveton Street was in fact a strip shopping centre.
Anti-pokie campaigners from Relationships Australia and the University of Ballarat opposed the plan and criticised Wednesday’s approval by councillors.
Mr Keating said the RSL had spent a “considerable amount of money” on the plans, engaging lawyers, architects and business advisers.
“A lot of work was put into a plan whereby we would buy or lease Oscars and we spent a lot of money but at the end of the day were told pokies could not go in shopping strips,” Mr Keating said.
“We are rather unhappy and feel like we have been led up the garden path.”
He said Oscars Hotel proprietor Danny Quinlan had been accommodating to the branch and the new headquarters at the George Hotel was an excellent development.
Mr Quinlan told Wednesday’s council meeting that the pokies would create eight new jobs and the venue would introduce a self-exclusion program for problem gamblers.
“We don’t want to beat the drum about this but there is inconsistency in the information being put out by Ballarat City Council,” Mr Keating said.
A spokesperson for the City of Ballarat said discussions around the proposal to locate the RSL’s gaming machines to Oscar’s Hotel were held prior to the introduction of the current policy.
“The advice given at the time was the most appropriate, in the absence of the (City of Ballarat) CBD Strategy and the Gaming Machine Policy,” the spokesperson said.
“The applicant decided not to proceed with the application. There are no easy answers to locating poker machines and Council is working to deliver the best outcomes to residents within the frameworks we have.”