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Historic Sunshine Coast pub ditches pokies to create family friendly atmosphere – ABC News

Jessica Huddart bought a 114-year-old pub in June last year, and on Tuesday she ripped out the poker machines to send them to the rubbish tip.

Key points:

Mapleton Public House in the Sunshine Coast hinterland had six gaming machines near the bar, but Ms Huddart wanted to improve the atmosphere.

“The pokies were situated around the bar so they were right in the middle of the building amongst the dining experience,” she said.

“There were certain tables on the verandah, for example, where if people were playing the machines you could hear the music whilst you were eating.”

She said government gaming regulations prevented her from establishing a kids’ corner with toys nearby.

two men lift a gaming machine onto a trolley in a room with brown wooden walls

“It was deterring from our ability to make this a more family friendly venue,” she said.

“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.

“We want to encourage more socialisation and more connectivity between our guests.”

Ms Huddart sold the gaming licenses for about $380,000 each and said the “vintage” pokies were unreliable in the months before she sold the licenses.

“They’re not really in high demand for venues that are really trying to make a lot of money from their gaming operations, so we’ll probably just take them down to the scrap yard and get them destroyed,” she said.

an old wooden building painted pink with a balcony

While removing the pokies was partly a business decision, Ms Huddart said there was a strong personal element too. 

“I did have a family member that did lose a lot of money through their addictions, so there is a personal resistance to them,” she said. 

Locals back move

Ms Huddart said she had received mostly positive responses from regular customers. 

“I had direct conversations with the handful of locals that would come in regularly to play them before it happened, so that they had a heads up on what was happening,” she said.  

“One joked about how I would be saving them money.

“I definitely put those conversations off … because I didn’t want to disappoint them, but they all took it really well.”

A bald man with white facial hair is smiling, holding a glass of beer and sitting at a bar at a pub.

Pub patron Russell Humphris said he supported the decision to remove the pokies.

“I think that the worst thing is for pensioners who get bored and then they get addicted to it,” he said.

“Once they’ve had a win, they keep coming back.

“They end up putting all their money through.

“Gambling is a bad addiction and it’s just as bad as anyone who is addicted to drugs I think.”

Mr Humphris said it would be more enjoyable to visit the pub without the “noise in the background” from gaming machines.

“I’d come here more for a beer and a meal and relaxation … I think the pub itself and the location and the views and everything is a drawcard in itself.”

‘No regrets’

woman and man standing beside poker machine on a trolley

After watching the pokies being driven away on the back of a truck, Ms Huddart declared she had “no regrets”. 

“It feels like a big milestone, I think, because the pokies have been here for so many years,” she said. 

“I think that what we’re doing is the right thing for the community and for our vision here.

“It really enables us to reinvest back into the pub and invest into a new kitchen.

“We’ll put in some old Chesterfields [couches] and a coffee table and make it more of a lounge space to sit and have a drink or a quick bite,” she said.

“I think that will definitely change the vibe of the bar area.”

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