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Blow up the pokies: New bar owner throws out poker machines to create a more family-oriented premises

  • Queensland woman buys a pub and throws out the pokies 
  • She sold the six gaming licences for around $380,000 each 

A Queensland woman who bought a country pub nine months ago has done something few publicans have dared to do – she dumped her poker machines and sold their gaming licence for around $2.25million. 

Jessica Huddart bought the 113-year-old Mapleton Public House in the Sunshine Coast hinterland last June and recently made up her mind to get rid of the pokies. 

For most pubs, the machines are a goldmine, bringing in a steady stream of revenue that has bankrolled the transformation of many hotels into venues that are luxurious compared to those of the pre-pokies era.

But for Ms Huddart, the financial benefits were outweighed by the social cost – having customers sitting in a side-room staring at flashing, beeping screens was totally at odds with what the social community hub she wanted her pub to be.

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‘Pokies can be quite antisocial so from a value standpoint, we decided that they weren’t in line with where we wanted to take things,’ she told ABC Sunshine Coast.

Ms Huddart said she wants to encourage more chatting between customers and a more family-oriented premises. 

Queensland woman Jessica Huddart bought a pub and has done something pubs very rarely do - she got rid of its six poker machines

Queensland woman Jessica Huddart bought a pub and has done something pubs very rarely do – she got rid of its six poker machines

Jessica Huddart (right) is pictured in the Mapleton Public House with her husband Ben Johnston

Jessica Huddart (right) is pictured in the Mapleton Public House with her husband Ben Johnston

It will also allow her to introduce a children’s corner within the bar; a concept that was banned by Queensland government regulations when poker machines were so close-by.

The noise from the machines was also off-putting to people who had gone to the pub for a chat over a drink or meal.

More personally, a member of Ms Huddart’s family had lost a lot of money to a gambling addiction.

When Ms Huddart told customers in advance that she was throwing out the pokies, one of them joked appreciatively that she was saving them money.

‘Gambling is a bad addiction and it’s just as bad as anyone who is addicted to drugs,’ regular customer Russell Humphris said.

Mr Humphris said the pub, with its good location and beautiful views was enough to bring in customers without the need for pokies. 

Jessica Huddart bought the 113-year-old Mapleton Public House (pictured) in the Sunshine Coast hinterland last June and recently made up her mind to get rid of the pokies

Jessica Huddart bought the 113-year-old Mapleton Public House (pictured) in the Sunshine Coast hinterland last June and recently made up her mind to get rid of the pokies

Ms Huddart sold the gaming licenses for around $380,000 each, but the pokies themselves were taken to a rubbish rip as they are old, unreliable and have little re-sale value.

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She plans to reinvest the licensing money into improving the bar with a new kitchen, some couches and a coffee table. 

‘What we’re doing is the right thing for the community and for our vision here,’ said Ms Huddart. 

Poker machine losses in Australia  

In the most recently available statistics, Australians lost more than $11.4billion on poker machines in a year, according to Melbourne’s Monash University.

The university analysed poker machine profits from the 2021-22 financial year, except for NSW, where the figures were from the 2021 calendar year. 

Poker machines have become a big issue for the NSW state election which is being held on Saturday, March 25.

Australians lost more than $11.4billion on poker machines (pictured) in a year, according to Melbourne's Monash University

Australians lost more than $11.4billion on poker machines (pictured) in a year, according to Melbourne’s Monash University

If the Liberal-National Coalition retains power, every poker machine in NSW will be cashless by December 31, 2028.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said his government ‘will end money laundering in pubs and clubs, while protecting jobs and supporting communities. 

‘We will also ensure people using poker machines receive more support, if they want it, to deal with problem gambling,’ he said. 

If Labor wins, it has promised to reduce the number of poker machines in the state.

Its plans go nowhere near as far as the Coalition when it comes to cashless gaming, though.

Labor has only committed to a 12 month trial from July 1 that would include around 500 poker machines across NSW in both metro and regional areas. 

‘This is a complicated policy area and we needed an evidenced-based approach to make sure any measures we introduced would work and wouldn’t have any unintended consequences,’ Labor leader Chris Minns.

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