Flow-on benefits: George Csifo, with Darren Hellman, Monique Hellman, Darren Trewin, Darrel Brown, Kieran Butty and Brydon Coles, says community groups will benefit from new pokies. Picture: Mark SmithTWENTY new poker machines will bankroll a multimillion-dollar expansion of a Hoppers Crossing sports club, after the gambling commission overruled Wyndham Council’s decision to refuse them.
Hoppers Crossing Sports Club, which won its application at the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation late last year, says it will install the poker machines by June.
Bringing the number of pokies at the Hogans Road club to 55, the new machines are expected to raise up to $750,000 in the first year.
The extra revenue will fund a new bistro and function room, estimated to cost $5 million.
The council rejected the club’s application last June and fought it at the commission hearing, pointing to anticipated social and economic harm to the community.
Its lawyers presented a survey of 500 Hoppers Crossing, Tarneit and Werribee residents, 61 per cent of whom opposed more pokies at the club.
But the commission decided there would be no negative impact, agreeing with a consultant’s report that highlighted the club’s “pronounced social, sporting and cultural role” in the Hoppers Crossing area. Direct economic benefits of the new poker machines included 22 new full-time jobs in the cafe, bar, bistro, gaming and function areas.
General manager George Csifo said that without pokies revenue, the club would not have been able to finance a $2.9 million pavilion for dozens of sports teams.
“It’s a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility with changerooms, a gym and community rooms,” he said.
“By offering these sorts of facilities and having so many sports clubs, it gets kids off the streets, involved in sport and out onto the paddock.”
Mr Csifo said the club reinvested 100 per cent of its pokies revenue back into sporting and social purposes, including donations of more than $180,000 to Rotary and $20,000 to youth outreach Open Family Australia.
While he understood the council’s anti-pokies stance was driven by a “moral obligation”, Mr Csifo said community clubs should not be cast in the same light as hotel pokies venues. “It does irk me that we’re thrown into the same bucket as hoteliers, who do it just to turn a profit.”
To complement the club’s new pavilion, the council is completing $3.1 million upgrades to the reserve, including fencing, synthetic practice wickets, a basketball court and barbecue area.