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Video Poker Killing Local Pubs in Australia

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently reported that about 20 percent of the country's pubs and bars have disappeared over the past five years, a decline that is alarming to industry players, as these pubs are being replaced by pubs with electronic poker machines.

The preceding years have not been better considering the period 1997-98, when Australia had just less than 5000 pubs and bars, excluding a separate 3200 clubs. Now there are over 4000 pubs and bars and a little over 2000 clubs.

The number of country licensed clubs has been drastically cut by half to just 1300; as the number of urban clubs was also trimmed by half to a number that is now even less than 1000.

The same report also shows that local pubs in Victoria are being turned into poker venues at an alarmingly swift rate. In fact, between 2000 and 2005, at least 32 start-up bars (pubs and taverns, included) introduced poker or gambling machines or other gambling alternatives in their business offering.

Consequently, in 2004-05, the entire pub and club industry made a supposedly impressive $18.5-billion, which is a sharp increase from the modest $15.3-billion it collected in 2000-01. However, in 2000-01, money made at pubs, bars and taverns did not include earnings from gambling and similar activities.

In 2004-05 pubs, bars and taverns earned $11.1-billion in income nationwide; this is an increase from only $8.9-billion in 2000-01. But the bulk of this income (60%) came from alcohol and other beverage sales, which went up from $5.6-billion in 2000-01 to $6.7-billion in 2004-05.

Greg Barber, spokesman for Victorian Greens gambling, said poker machines were putting an end to the regular neighbourhood pubs. "Pokies prey on the most vulnerable members of the community," Barber said.

 

August 20, 2006
Brian Nelson

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