pink hotel – the vcgr gets it wrong again

Only two days ago, I wrote about The Pink Hotel’s proposed 60-machine gaming room, and the soundproof glass cage that was intended to overlook the pokies. There’s been a lot of yelling and screaming about this, both in the press and the Beaconsfield community, and rightfully so.

However, on that same day the VCGR quietly issued a press release on the topic of The Pink Hotel’s kids area. I honestly think they intended to clear the air with this press release, but all they’ve done is highlight how poorly they operate, and how badly they need major reforms in their day to day operations.

Here is their original decision, granting the 60-machine gaming licence, and including details on the glass cage. Here is the press release about that decision, and here is the later press release that followed the general outpouring of indignation and anger.

Let’s look at the original decision first. Here are some of the things wrong with it:
* It states that the gaming venue will share boundaries with the Beaconsfield Child Care Centre and the Beaconsfield Community Centre, and will be near an aged-care facility (yet to be built). Seems like three good reasons not to put it there!
* The architect responsible for The Pink Hotel’s design stated that (i) patrons would have to walk past the gaming room to access any other part of the hotel; (ii) the gaming room would have direct access to a smoking area, where gamblers could keep an eye on their machine while smoking… in fact, he considered this to be very important; (iii) the children’s playroom would be “fully enclosed with soundproof glass so that children are visible to parents from the gaming room or bistro.” All of these are absolutely fundamental design flaws.
* The hotel’s accountant stated that (i) he had based his budget on a cost per gaming machine entitlement of $7,500… what they don’t say is that The Pink Hotel actually paid $33,350 for each entitlement, or a total of more than $2 million; (ii) he talked about an “entitlement loan” of $5.25 million, which is more than twice what they paid for their entitlements; (iii) the report states that in 2012, there would be a loan payment made by The Pink Hotel of $1,050 million. That’s right… over a billion dollars.

Everything the architect said gave more and more cause to reject the proposal, yet the VCGR approved it. And the accountant’s figures don’t add up, yet the VCGR approved it. And while I think that most of the problem’s with the accountant’s figures are actually mistakes in the VCGR’s report, that in itself is proof of their incompetence. This is a formal, legal document, and it’s riddled with mistakes.

I won’t go into the press release about the decision too much; apart from saying that the proposal was approved, it’s mainly a spin document rehashing the “fact” that gambling expenditure, machine numbers and venue numbers have dropped recently. To be honest, that has nothing to do with The Pink Hotel, and is just a case of the VCGR trying to make themselves look good.

But the second press release? The one about the kids area? This one is a joke.

This press release clarifies that the proposed children’s playroom does NOT have a clear view of the gaming area. It goes on to state that “incorrect evidence” was given to the VCGR at the time of the hearing, stating that parents could see into the playroom from the gaming area.

By issuing this press release, the VCGR is saying that they know it is wrong to build a playroom with a clear view of poker machines… and yet that is the exact proposal they approved.

The rest of the press release is an attempt to justify their decision, and finishes with another rehash of the minor drop in expenditure, venues, etc… you get the picture. Another spin document, only it doesn’t work.

I believe that The Pink Hotel has been somewhat harshly dealt with in this case. Put to one side for the moment the issue as to whether or not the people of Beaconsfield want a pokies venue; I believe that Robin Daley, the man behind this proposal, has been let down by his bumbling architect and accountant… their inaccuracies, along with the VCGR’s mistakes, have put The Pink Hotel is a tricky position.

The VCGR, however, have proven themselves to be incompetent, ineffective, and unable to handle the responsibility that has been given to them. They can’t even issue a decision document that isn’t full of errors.

Is it any wonder the recent auditor-general’s report called on the VCGR to lift their game? I think not.

We, as a community, deserve far far better than this.

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