18 Jan

Pokies and Kids Club: All or Nothing at Langwarrin Hotel

Beretta's Langwarrin Hotel, Frankston, VictoriaBeretta’s Langwarrin Hotel is a popular destination for a day out in Victoria’s south central. A contemporary bistro, sports bar, children’s play area and roomy outdoor deck are just some of the highlights of the hotel’s domestic atmosphere. But within the walls lie 52 poker machines, and if the owner isn’t granted the right to install 10 additional pokies, the hotel’s family-friendliness may suffer for it.

In what amounts to an attempt at political bribery, the Beretta family is threatening to default on a previous plan to invest heavily in the expansion of its children’s play area. If the requested increase in poker machines is not granted, the Langwarrin hotel will only see $450,000 pumped into the renovations, instead of the $1.5 million originally approved by city council.

In a letter to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, the hotel’s owner requested permission to install 10 additional electronic gaming machines, stating that the planned kids play area “will be significantly reduced in scope if approval for these additional gaming machines is not obtained.”

Plans for the children’s indoor play area were approved by Frankston Council in late 2014, at which time the Langwarrin Hotel’s owner, Peter Beretta, had proposed to spend $1.5 million on the new facility, including a throng of new recreational equipment.

The letter Beretta sent to the VCGLR in October 2015 threatens substantial cutbacks to that plan. “If approval is not obtained in relation to these additional electronic gaming machines, our financial position will be such that we need to significantly reduce the scope of the proposed playground works so that the overall cost of the same is approximately $450,000,” wrote Mr. Beretta.

“The resulting play area would not be enclosed,” the submission continued, “so would not be able to be used in inclement weather.”

The hotel already hosts a number of youth activities via its Kids Club, including daily specials, birthday parties and monthly prize drawings. Beretta’s letter included several examples of their Kids Club services, further prodding the council to accept its tactical inducement.

Members of the Frankston Council debated the pokies license application in December, but upon obtaining legal advice, decided that any continued discussions on the matter should be held in a confidential forum.

Throughout the 2014-15 fiscal year, gamblers at the Langwarrin Hotel suffered $7.6 million in losses on the poker machines, accounting for 12.26% of the total losses in Frankston over the same 12 month period.

According to a report commissioned by the hotel from Progressive Venues Services, and subsequently tendered to the VCGLR, annual expenditures at the hotel are projected to rise by $465,879 – an amount Beretta could overcome if permission to extend the hotel’s gaming services to 62 poker machines is granted.

The application requests that Beretta’s Langwarrin Hotel be authorized to acquire and install 5 new pokies, while transferring the existing entitlement of 5 poker machines from its Seaford sister-site, the Riviera Hotel.

The VCGLR is expected to decide on the matter at next month’s meeting.