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TSR Blog

Blow up the Pokies

Paul Fielding - Sunday, May 01, 2011

Do you know what people do in Perth when they go out? They sit around around a table. They have a few beers. They might have a meal. And they talk to each other. Unbelievable isn't it?? Mum's 40th Birthday celebration in the local pub bistro is a genuine family catch up. There's no Keno, rarely a TAB attached to the dining room, and no pokies.

In contrast, my last family 'pub' catch up was a nightmare. Arranged in one of Melbourne's bayside 'uber' venues, what was planned as catch-up lunch between a family of about 20 people quickly disintegrated to a sparse table, that often resembled a drop in center. Just to clarify for those of you fortunate enough to live in a city free of these sprawling, feral monster venues, Melbourne's 'uber pubs' are designed to drain every last cent from your pockets, and have you return as soon as possible to do it all again. You can bet on numbers, horses, bar promos, and of course the good old pokies.

What these machines have done, amongst far more serious social issues, is destroy the experience of meeting for lunch at the pub. What I remember as some of the best Sunday afternoons growing up, catching up with cousins, grandparents and friends for a feed, is now tarnished with questions from family members asking "where's uncle Bill gone?" Uncle Bill just smashed $100 through a machine. "Where's nanny mum?" Nanny is hoping her free spins will at least return her pension. "Show aunty Liz what you made at school mate!" Um, Aunty Liz needs the ATM across the road.

The quality of the food and menu is diminished, because the desperate hunt for profit has spread through the venue like a virus. Beer's not cheap, and the bistro is under-staffed. Maybe one waiter to 60px. If anything, the profits being made from the lit-up home wreckers next door should allow a little relaxation in food and beverage gross profit margin. Not so.

I've worked in such venues before, from waiter to manager, and I am not against large hotels at all- the challenges in successfully managing 4 or 5 different outlets in one venue are worth tackling. Just take away the machines please! There are PA announcements at the gaming bar to tell people their meals are on their tables. There are menus designed to eat with your fingers- at your machine. In NSW, you can smoke, drink, eat and demolish as many cappuccinos that your blood pressure can take, without standing at all. Only the smoking part is omitted for Victoria.

I am sharing these particular views in a somewhat light hearted way, but the lost Sunday lunch is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the damage caused by poker machines in Victoria, and all over Australia. I believe that 9/10 people playing these machines, at any given time of the day, are suffering from some form of gambling problem, and there is no doubt the state governments or venues that operate the machines care at all for their patron's welfare, which is a point I will address later. 

My advice? Move to Perth.

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