By Rowan Forster

The Pakenham Racing Club has quietly bowed out of a hearing before the state’s planning umpire to fight the refusal of 20 additional poker machines at Club Officer.

Cardinia Shire confirmed the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) case – scheduled for August – had been withdrawn by the proponent.

It comes as the council has ordered Bad Betts Australia to remove a provocative anti-gambling billboard in Officer.

The sign, which makes reference to suicide and domestic violence, has sparked backlash from several parents in the community.

According to Bad Betts Australia’s Rohan Wenn, Cardinia Shire will allow the sign to be relocated on private property roughly 500 metres away, a further proximity from local schools.

He stressed the importance of the material, which spreads awareness throughout the community and pressures proponents – like the Pakenham Racing Club – to back down.

“We had a call from council earlier this week, asking council to relocate the sign because it is of a political nature,” he said.

“It concerns me that people can be concerned about the actual sign, and not the actual venue and its repercussions.

“We know there’s nothing controversial about the sign – it will contribute to violence and it will contribute to suicide and these are the heavily realities.”

Mr Wenn added that the Pakenham Racing Club’s withdrawal from the VCAT hearing likely eventuated because they knew the odds were stacked against them.

“It’s certainly a win for us,” he said.

A separate VCAT hearing, concerning the instillation of 80 pokies at Officer’s Station Hotel, will be heard in November.

Detractor Jerry Fields said it was a relief to see the Pakenham Racing club “do the right thing”.

“I think a lot of people in Officer will be very happy, even if they aren’t publicly vocal about it,” he said.

“These things aren’t good for the community and they only really benefit the rich companies installing them.

“It’s taking advantage of our most vulnerable residents, and to me, that’s wrong.”

The proposal was rejected by Cardinia Shire councillors in November and again by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) in December.

Councillor Michael Schilling led the charge, moving an alternate motion to quash the proposal.

He argued that the increase would likely contribute to further family violence across the region.

A separate VCAT hearing, concerning the instillation of 80 pokies at Officer’s Station Hotel, will be heard in November.

Pakenham Racing Club CEO Michael Hodge could not be reached for comment. 

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