Scores of supporters from two local groups, Enough Pokies in Castlemaine (EPIC) and Castlemaine Sports and Community Club (The Club), are expected to attend the five-day VCAT hearing into the Castlemaine pokies battle, which starts in Melbourne on Monday.
Mount Alexander Shire Council is appealing the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation's (VCGR) decision earlier this year to grant Maryborough Highland Society a licence to open a club, complete with 65 poker machines, in the old railway goods shed, in Kennedy Street, Castlemaine.
Council's economic and social development director, Carolyn Wallace says she is confident the council is well prepared for the hearing.
"We are confident that we have reviewed all of the material that MHS and The Club have prepared and we're still confident in the voracity of our original social and economic impact statement," Ms Wallace said.
"We have had a subsequent independent assessment which confirms our original assessment that the impact of a further 65 poker machines in Castlemaine will be detrimental to the community."
Ms Wallace said the council had not made any decision on whether it would take the matter to the Supreme Court if it happened to lose the appeal at VCAT.
"There has been absolutely no decision in that regard."
MHS general manager, Malcolm Blandthorn says the society is "fairly confident since the original decision went in our favour".
"Council is taking us to VCAT - they have to prove the VCGR made an incorrect decision," Mr Blandthorn said.
"Obviously, we will have some counter arguments but we are a not-for-profit group so we can't really afford to pay to keep re-evaluating everything."
Mr Blandthorn said MHS was confident it was well prepared for the hearing.
He said he expected a decision within 28 days but did not think MHS would proceed any further if the decision went against the society.
"At this stage, I don't really think we can afford to take it to the Supreme Court."
As previously reported in the Mail, bids by both EPIC and The Club to be `joined' to the hearing were unsuccessful earlier this year but both parties can give evidence.
EPIC says the onus is on MHS and The Club to prove the trebling of pokies in Castlemaine will not result in overall social and economic detriment to the local community.
EPIC's Jessica Howard said: "In light of the historic and unprecedented community opposition to this proposed new pokies venue, EPIC has secured pro-bono representation from a sterling legal team.
"Castlemaine is a pretty special place and it's entirely appropriate that we will be represented by a legal team and local community members interested in securing a positive future for our town.
"EPIC looks forward to the opportunity to highlight the clear negative social and economic outcomes that will result from the MHS' plans, but also underline the unique nature of our shire and its vibrant and dynamic community."
"I am proud of the efforts our council, EPIC and thousands of community members have made in opposing the MHS plans." EPIC supporters will be travelling to Melbourne for VCAT hearing every week day next using the V-line 8.06am service. For details visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
A spokesperson for The Club this week said: "We are presenting evidence at the VCAT hearing and leaving it up to VCAT to make the decision.
"We feel everything that can be said, has been said many times over and over again," the spokesperson said.