Thursday, December 13, 2012

Psychiatrist says he will close the door if new club goes ahead - VCAT hearing - Day 8

A local psychiatrist has told the Castlemaine pokies hearing in VCAT that he will close his doors if the new pokies venue goes ahead in the town.
Mount Alexander Shire Council is appealing the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation's (VCGR) decision earlier this year to grant Maryborough Highland Society (MHS) a licence to open a club, complete with 65 poker machines, in the old railway goods shed, in Kennedy Street, Castlemaine.

The matter is being heard by VCAT Deputy President Mark Dwyer in Melbourne.
 Dr Gianni D’Ortenzio was called as a witness for Enough Pokies in Castlemaine (EPIC) on Wednesday and told the tribunal he would rather close his business than be “the ambulance ay the bottom of the cliff”.

Dr D’Ortenzio is a qualified psychiatrist, who opened his practice in Castlemaine in 2001, after working in the public health system in Bendigo in the 1990s.
He said that in those days he wasn’t treating anybody for problem gambling but all that changed when pokies arrived in Castlemaine in the mid-1990s.

“Now, I see several patients who have problems with gambling plus quite a few others with existing disorders who are generally more vulnerable to problem gambling,” Dr D’Ortenzio said.
He said the patients came from a wide range of socio-economic groups.

“But with only one in ten problems gamblers actually presenting, I see more of their spouses and families than I do the problem gamblers.”
Dr D’Ortenzio said he was particularly concerned about the location of the proposed new pokies venue in Castlemaine.

“Literature tells us that problem gamblers are three times more likely to suicide than others, and the proposed site for this club is a particular problem for me.
“Victoria leads the nation with suicides by train and I am particularly concerned about that sort of venue being so close to a railway station.

“I am very proud to have been associated with very few suicides during my career but these things are only going to get worse in Castlemaine if this new venue goes ahead.
“I am going to close my doors as soon as the club opens.

“I don’t want to hang around and be the inadequate ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.”
Mr Dwyer asked Dr D’Ortenzio where people would go if he closed his practice, which is the only one in Castlemaine.

“I guess they would have to go back to Melbourne or to Bendigo … but these people go through a lot of denial, guilt and shame as it is and it would be another hurdle for them to have to get across.”
Dr D’Ortenzio told the tribunal that he believes problem gambling is a public health issue and the only way to control it is to cut down the supply.

“I think if anyone thinks there are not going to be any more problems as a result of tripling the number of pokies in Castlemaine, then they are quite misguided.”
Anyone needing counselling or help can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Jeremy Forbes, president of People Not Pokies, was the last witness called to give evidence at the hearing.

Mr Forbes said People Not Pokies was a positive community initiative aimed at showing that a community can provide strength and funding for their sporting groups without taking money from pokies.
“Our pilot program is with the Castlemaine Football and Netball Club,” he said.

“People Not Pokies is like a conduit for other businesses in town – money comes in through the organisation and we organise the sponsorship of $10,000 for five years (a total of $50,000) for the football club.”
Mr Forbes, a tradesman who lives in Castlemaine and has played and trained football teams at Campbells Creek, said Castlemaine Football and Netball Club was changing its culture.

“The sale of alcohol has already decreased and they want to become more of a family club. They saw People Not Pokies as a good chance to for them to continue to change the culture.”
He said the sponsorship would kick off from round one of the 2013 football season.
Following the final witness, the barristers then began making their final submissions to the tribunal.

Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation barrister, Liam Brown was up first. He was followed by MHS barrister, Peter Caillard, who didn’t finish his submission yesterday and will start proceedings today.
Mount Alexander Shire Council’s barrister John Rantino will be up next followed by EPIC’s barrister Susan Brennan. Mr Caillard will then have a right of reply.

The hearing is expected to finish tomorrow, Friday, December 14.
A summary of the opening submissions will be in the next post.