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Australian Hotels Punish for Anti-Poker Machine Stand

24 July 2002

AUSTRALIA –As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald: Some hoteliers are being punished for taking a stand against the state's insidious poker machines

"The drinkers at the Sofala Royal Hotel, in the old NSW gold mining town, are mostly pensioners and low-income people and those `who can't really get along in the city', says hotelier Martin Tomkinson.

"Perfect customers, you would think, for the `crack cocaine' of the gambling industry: poker machines. But not for Tomkinson, 52.

"…He and his wife Sandra, and her late mother Eileen Farrell, have held the licence for the 140-year-old weatherboard pub in Denison Street for almost 50 years. And even though he has had no end of offers from sharp operators to finance and install the 15 poker machines to which he is entitled, he has always refused, because he cares about his customers.

"For this moral stand, he and a handful of other honourable hoteliers in the state have been punished this month by the Government stripping an estimated $2 million (US$1.08 million) out of the resale value of their hotels. Their gaming licences are to be revoked because they haven't been used, they say.

"…Since the Government liberalised gaming laws in 1997, hotels have become nothing more than gaming parlours, as poker machines become more profitable than beer. While liquor sales have stayed static in the past three years, revenue from gambling increased by 64 per cent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Last year, NSW pubs, taverns and bars made 35 per cent of their revenue from poker machines.

"…Australia has 20 per cent of the world's poker machines, five times more than the United States…"

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