Zagame’s Berwick Springs Hotel is a successful establishment. Their 95 poker machines work overtime (until 5am, 7 days a week) and the hotel has been the highest earning gambling venue in the area for years. In 2015/16, Zagame’s Berwick made over $16.5 million from poker machines and is on track to smash that record this financial year.
But it seems that isn’t enough. Zagame’s Berwick has lodged applications with Casey Council and the VCGLR for approval for 10 more poker machines, which would bring them to 105 machines… the maximum any venue in Victoria can have.
There are several reasons why this is a bad idea. Zagame’s Berwick isn’t just a top earner in Casey, it’s also the 10th biggest earning hotel in the entire state of Victoria. They successfully applied for 10 extra machines just 2 years ago, and saw their earnings jump as a result. And the City of Casey is ranked second in Victoria in poker machine losses; residents lost almost $125 million last financial year, second only to Brimbank. That’s a lot of money.
But it’s not just the huge losses. Casey is a relatively disadvantaged area, ranked 9th out of 31 metropolitan local government areas (LGAs) in the SEIFA socio-economic index. It’s a growth area, which means young families, and Casey is home to some of the highest levels of mortgage stress in the country. Unemployment is high, sitting at around 8%, and Casey has more unemployed adults than any other metropolitan LGA.
Then consider that Casey’s 13 existing poker machine venues already operate over 900 poker machines, and you’ll start to see why this proposed increase is such a bad idea.
And let’s not forget that Zagame’s Berwick is already a problem. Located opposite a busy shopping centre and within walking distance of a number of schools, the hotel’s position on Clyde Rd makes it impossible to miss. If this were a brand new development there would be a strong case to stop it altogether based on its location alone… sadly, however, it’s too late to do anything about that. But it’s not too late to stop them from putting more machines in to drain more even money from the pockets of those who can least afford it.
Around now you might be wondering, why am I so riled up about this? The answer is simple. It’s not just that I’m a recovered poker machine addict. It’s not just that I’ve been fighting for gambling reform for years. And it’s not just that this is nothing more than a naked cash grab.
The thing is, I’m a local. I live in Berwick. I can walk to Zagame’s from my house in around 10 minutes. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them bring more poker machines into my suburb without a fight.
So I will be making a submission to the City of Casey, voicing my opposition to this proposal. I will also be making a submission to the VCGLR along the same lines. If you live in the City of Casey, I strongly encourage you to do the same. Links to the relevant web sites are listed below.
Submissions are open until Friday 23 June 2017. Please join me in telling the Council and the VCGLR that enough is enough.