It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
A month ago, I attended a public meeting in the suburb of Officer in Melbourne’s south-east. The topic at hand was poker machines; Cardinia council was signing off on a development precinct for the area that included provisions for a hotel with poker machines. Plans were already in place to build the hotel and apply for a licence to operate up to 80 poker machines.
The mood of 99% of attendees was angry and concerned; they didn’t want a poker machine pub built in the middle of their town, close to shops and schools. Yet the intended licensee stood up and defended his plans, saying that without poker machines, he “didn’t have a business case” and that they were essential if the development was going to proceed.
Two days ago, I was linked to an article in the Cranbourne News which couldn’t have been more different. Cranbourne, in case you don’t know, is also a suburb in Melbourne’s south-east. Like Officer, Cranbourne is part of a growth corridor that is seeing residential numbers grow almost exponentially.
The gist of the article was clear from the opening paragraph. A new pub was on the cards for Cranbourne, one that would “foster independent live music, offer exciting food and drink” and, most importantly, “shun poker machines”. The developer specifically mentioned that he and his pubs were anti-pokies and that he was looking to provide something more exciting for Cranbourne locals to enjoy.
Here’s the thing. I live in Melbourne’s south-east; in fact, I live practically half way between Officer and Cranbourne. Pretty much every hotel in the area has a gaming room; I’ve long resigned myself to not having a local pub as I refuse to support businesses that make their money from poker machine addicts such as I used to be.
How is it that one developer can say that without poker machines he doesn’t have a business case, while another says that poker machines are the last thing his hotel needs? These proposed pubs are in the same region, but they couldn’t be more different. One is an exciting prospect that will make itself interesting and attractive in order to thrive, while the other just wants to include a room of gaming machines that will bankroll the rest of the venue at the expense of the community.
As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t have a business case without poker machines then you don’t have a business case. I’m looking forward to having a local pub at last, and it will be a converted church in Cranbourne called The Amazing Grace… not an anonymous pokies pub in Officer.