There’s been a bit of coverage in the press lately about a proposed development in the surf coast town of Jan Juc, which would include the addition of 30 poker machines to The Beach Hotel (see my In The News pages for links to some of these articles). There is a considerable local movement opposed to this proposal, and the dispute has been going on for months.
This is nothing new. Mansfield and Romsey are two examples of country towns that have been successful in blocking the introduction of pokies into their communities (although recent governmental changes will make that kind of resistance more difficult). Bendigo is another town currently fighting to block additions to the pokies it already has.
Jan Juc local Jeremy Ham is championing the fight to keep the pokies out of his town, and from what I can see, he’s doing a heck of a job! Jeremy has a group on Facebook called Don’t Poke Jan Juc (currently standing at 818 members, including yours truly) and has been incredibly active in organising support and doing everything he can to block the proposal.
Where do I stand on this issue? As you can probably guess, I’m on Jeremy’s side… but let’s look at why.
As a reformed gambler, I’m opposed to poker machine expansion on principle. I’m realistic enough to accept that we’re not going to get rid of the stupid things, but why spread them into areas where they’re not wanted? The harm these machines can cause to a community is staggering.
So let’s look at the location. Jan Juc is a small town, with a small permanent population. It’s a relaxed place. Why on earth would they want poker machines in the middle of their community, especially as there are already two gambling venues in Torquay, less than 3km away?
The Beach Hotel doesn’t need the pokies to drive business… I’ve done a bit of research on them, and they’ve been winning a heap of awards for the service they already offer, and their redevelopment of the pub into the business that it is today. It’s popular, it’s successful and it’s classy. All of this without pokies. Add poker machines into this type of establishment and you diminish the atmosphere of the hotel as a whole. There’s a reason that the most popular inner-city pubs in Melbourne are the ones without poker machines.
Now, The Beach Hotel may need the pokies to help fund future proposed developments (such as a motel complex, which is also being opposed). Ok, but what happens when the development (if undertaken) is finished? These plans for poker machines are about nothing but profit.
Let’s look at that profit. How much will The Beach Hotel stand to earn from 30 poker machines? Well, the two closest venues (the Torquay Golf Club and the Torquay Hotel) have 55 machines between them, and took in just under $2.5 million in 2008/2009. Using that as a benchmark, a 30 machine venue in Jan Juc would take in approximately $1.35 million a year. That means (after taxes and the obligatory tiny community donations) that The Beach Hotel are hoping to make roughly half a million dollars profit out of their machines, every year.
But it also means $1.35 million being taken out of the local community and visiting patrons. Thats $1.35 million a year that won’t be spent in other businesses in Jan Juc. $1.35 million a year that will no longer be in the wallets and accounts of the people of Jan Juc.
$1.35 million a year. Gone.
Don’t try and tell me that this proposal will create jobs and stimulate the economy. Recent research is finding that gambling venues create some jobs and promote some spending, at the expense of more jobs and more diverse spending across a range of other businesses and past-times. Poker machines exist to create profit for their owners, it’s as simple as that. Even the amount pledged by The Beach Hotel to be donated back to the community (which I believe is $30,000 a year) is nothing compared to the profit they stand to make.
Taking a different perspective… I also have a personal connection to Jan Juc. While I’m not a resident, the school I went to as a young man maintains a residence in Jan Juc, and I spent a lot of time there with my classmates on school retreats and camps. The youth group I belonged to also made use of that residence, meaning more time spent on the surf coast. Jan Juc has an atmosphere, a pace of life that is totally at odds with the concept of a gambling venue. I would feel incredibly saddened to return Jan Juc (as I often do) to find that poker machines had moved in. Maybe as a non-local I don’t have the right to feel this way, but I can guarantee you there are many, many people who would also feel the same way.
That’s enough from me. Head on over to Jeremy’s Facebook group, sign-up and lend your support. Help keep poker machines out of Jan Juc; they’re not wanted, not needed, and not in the interests of the community.