An extra 20 gaming machines will be activated in Whittlesea if the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation approves the application of South Morang’s Commercial Hotel.

Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, which owns the Plenty Road venue, applied for 40 machines to help fund major renovations.

But the group says it will take out 20 gaming machines from its three other local hotels – The Plough, Bundoora Tavern, and Excelsior – if its South Morang application is approved.

This, it states, means there will be only an extra 20 machines overall in Whittlesea.

The Commercial Hotel has not had poker machines as yet, while 10 other venues in the city operate 691 machines.

In a statement to the commission, venue manager Natalee Melaney said 40 gaming machines at the Commercial would underwrite construction of a gaming room, upgrades to the public bar, and a new rooftop beer garden and function room.

“The aim is to significantly improve the feel of the hotel and provide a range of different facilities that are not currently available,” she said, adding the poker machines also meant the hotel would employ an extra 20 people.

A social and economic impact assessment submitted to the VCGLR as part of the application said the extra machines were likely to have a minor impact on problem gambling.

The assessment said the hotel would have one of the smallest numbers of gaming machines in Whittlesea and would operate for fewer gaming hours than other venues in the area.

Whittlesea has four of the top 10 hotel venues in Victoria for player losses.

They include the Epping Plaza Hotel, which recorded the state’s highest gambling losses last year.

Between July 2015 and May 31 this year, gamblers lost more than $102 million at Whittlesea’s gaming venues, up from $100 million in the previous 12 months.

Whittlesea council has launched an online survey to gauge the community’s thoughts on the Commercial Hotel’s application. Residents can have their say until July 13 at bit.ly/2903eP8

The VCGLR will conduct a hearing on the group’s application at a later date.