A Victorian club has reignited a 20-year debate by applying to revive the closed Romsey Hotel, including installation of 50 gaming machines despite previous local objections that went to the Supreme Court.
An application has been submitted to the VGCCC (Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission) by Romsey Football Netball Club (RFNC) for a $10 million renovation and extension on the pub, which closed in 2017.
Macedon Ranges Shire Council predicts Romsey will soon be classed as a major town, having more than 10,000 residents, and the Club says it is responding to cries for the watering hole to return.
“There is overwhelming feedback from the Romsey community that they want a pub in their town,” stated RFNC on social media.
“There were six hotels in and around the town, but at the moment there are none and the possibility that Romsey will never again see a hotel.”
Before the Commission can approve an application, it must be satisfied that the premises are suitable for gaming machines and operation, and importantly that the net commercial and economic impact of the proposal will not be detrimental to the community.
Council has rushed to action a submission detailing any social and economic impact for the area, although it stressed it was not their place to make a decision for or against.
But the matter is a case of déjà vu for some, nearly two decades after a proposal on the same pub that went to the highest court in the land.
In 2004 an application by Romsey Hotel for 50 gaming machines, which was later reduced to 30 machines, was ultimately rejected by Council after substantial community opposition.
In 2006 the application was similarly refused by the VGCCC, but the owner appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), which subsequently overturned the Commission’s ruling, determining any negative effects would be outweighed by the positive economic benefits to the area, and approving the machines.
Council then appealed VCAT’s decision in the Supreme Court, which ruled the tribunal was in error approving the application, in a case that set a precedent and continues to be cited.
The 2023 application has similarities to its predecessor, with the distinct difference being the exact nature of the applicant, and how profits will be distributed.
The plans outline that the hotel’s freehold owner and RFNC have formed a collaborative arrangement based in a two-year management agreement of Romsey community hotel, with option to extend.
Benefits detailed include redevelopment and reopening of the pub, increase visitation to Romsey and decreased travel time for locals to an alternative, and access to responsible gaming.
“More importantly for Romsey and district residents, it provides a traditional social hub that has been missing for five years. Expected employment will be 100, providing full and part-time work, and importantly apprenticeships for local young people.”
Proposed is a multi-faceted venue catering to many markets, offering a café/bakery, bistro with al-fresco dining, wine bar, function space, sports bar and gaming lounge, open 10am-1am.
The submission also covers aspects relating to problem gaming, such as the prime corner location, with gross gaming revenue for the first year estimated at $2.3-$2.8 million, but that this is mitigated by the proposed design and responsible gaming procedures, and the socio-economic profile of the growing community.
Profits will reported be allocated such that the Club receives the first $200,000, then 30 per cent of remaining profits, all of which it says will be distributed to local clubs and charities in accordance with a committee, which will invite submissions twice a year.
“It is considered the benefits of this application in a social and economic sense will at least meet, or more likely exceed the dis-benefits.”
The matter will be heard by the VGCCC at a future date, to be determined.