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Victorian town wins fight against poker machi -

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ELEANOR HALL: The small Victorian town of Romsey has won its fight against the poker machines that
were destined for the town's only pub.

The Romsey Hotel won a licence for 30 poker machines but locals fought the decision all the way to
the state's highest court, arguing that poker machines would harm the town.

Rachael Brown has our report.

RACHAEL BROWN: Nestled in the Macedon Ranges, 50 minutes north of Melbourne, Romsey is a laid back,
quiet town, and locals want to keep it that way.

Their local pub, the Romsey Hotel, was given the green light for 30 poker machines, but the
community revolted, worried they'd drain money from young families and businesses.

Since poker machines were first introduced in Victoria, local opposition to stop them has often
proved futile, but the Romsey community won the support of Victoria's Court of Appeal that ruled in
March last year VCAT was wrong to ignore community opposition.

Today, VCAT president Justice Kevin Bell ruled any economic benefit of the machines would be far
outweighed by their negative social impact.

KEVIN BELL: On the negative side there is the money which will go out of the town, about $2.1
million per annum, of which about 80 per cent will be from new gaming expenditure and the adverse
effect on local businesses.

RACHAEL BROWN: Sue Kirkegard is a Romsey resident who's helped spearhead the town's five-year fight
against the poker machines.

She says her neighbours will be thrilled with today's decision.

SUE KIRKEGARD: So many different people in town used to talk over coffee shops and down the street
and at the supermarkets that they really didn't want the glitzy poker machines expenditure and
activity in the town.

It's a fairly hard working, ordinary town, but it's a small town. People do have a bit of care for
how life affects each other, still not the big city kind of image.

RACHAEL BROWN: And so you think that 30 would've made a big difference?

SUE KIRKEGARD: Thirty is a lot for a town the size of Romsey. Romsey's a country town, you go for
walks and you go outside and you go for meals and at night it's quiet. You know, there's no bright
lights at midnight.

RACHAEL BROWN: Ms Kirkegard says the decision should offer hope to other local communities fighting
against big business.

SUE KIRKEGARD: It is ordinary people who really don't have much to do with courts and that sort of
thing. Ordinary people, whether they have a say in what happens in their local area, you know, how
do they do that in relationship to gaming, that's never been worked through except for this
legislation.

RACHAEL BROWN: Jim Hogan is the owner of the Romsey Hotel and says today's decision will hurt local
tourism and business.

JIM HOGAN: It was part of an overall development, a $5 million development which would have created
approximately 30 full-time employees, would've extended the hotel, including cafes, restaurants,
motel, function room.

RACHAEL BROWN: And that development can't go ahead now?

JIM HOGAN: It's integral, you know, so unfortunately I feel sorry for the population of Romsey the
fact that those development dollars will be going to other hotels in the group.

RACHAEL BROWN: So you think people will gamble anyway just not at your pub?

JIM HOGAN: Well they're gambling anyway. My opponents have acknowledged that Romsey people, they
gamble at one of my other venues at Wallan which isn't far away and they also get a (inaudible). So
the money is being spent and it's being spent outside the town.

RACHAEL BROWN: Mr Hogan says 65 per cent of the town supported his hotel's redevelopment
application.

He says it's strange for planning approvals to be decided on a popularity basis, and says it holds
massive implications for the gaming industry.

JIM HOGAN: It certainly calls into question the State Government's 2012 gaming legislation.
There'll be no new entrants into the market. It makes existing gaming venues monopolies in their
area; it makes them a lot more valuable.

How the Government addresses that I'm not sure. It's got implications I think to liquor and
planning where residents can run a survey and oppose it on feelings of unhappiness.

ELEANOR HALL: Jim Hogan is the owner of the Romsey Hotel, he was speaking to Rachael Brown.