An application to carry out alterations of an Elizabeth St venue to house 20 additional poker machines has been unanimously approved by City of Melbourne councillors.
The ground floor layout of the venue will be re-constructed to make room for 20 more poker machines, adding to the existing 56 at pub The Meeting Place, a venue within close proximity to residential buildings, Melbourne Central Station and the retail precinct.
At the Future Melbourne Committee meeting on May 16, all councillors gave a green light to the planning application.
Council is not the authority to grant gaming approval under the Gambling Regulation Act 2003.
Planning portfolio chair Cr Nicholas Reece said he did not support the application but had to approve it because the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation had already granted the gaming approval in December.
“Electronic gaming machines in the central City of Melbourne are, in my view, a major public policy problem. It’s a policy set in a bygone era when the City of Melbourne was not the vibrant residential place that it is now,” Cr Reece said.
Cr Reece called for a cap on the number of poker machines within the City of Melbourne.
“I welcome the fact that the City of Melbourne is reviewing its policy around the gaming cap … and I certainly hope a (State Government) review produces an evidence base for the City of Melbourne to be able to make a submission, which calls for a cap on gaming machines,” he said.
Cr Rohan Leppert called the application “shameful” for its negative social impacts.
“This is a shameful application, which will prey on vulnerable people … I am one of those councillors who have a moral outrage with gaming machines,” he said.
The venue’s spokesperson Travis Finlayson said it had changed the layout of the venue and would build a closed-off section dedicated for the poker machines to “make gaming more discreet”.
“The placement of the gaming machines will be in a dedicated gaming room that prohibits gaming activities from the public realm … and the inclusion of the restaurant on the first level improves the range of alternate recreational activities available to the users of the venue and reduces the emphasis on gaming,” he said.
The application received 41 official objections from the public, with the majority of the objectors raising moral concerns about installing a large number of gaming machines in the CBD.