As poker machines crept their way into the public bars of Australian pubs in the 1930s, the great debate (which continues to this day) and our fascination with the ‘one-armed-bandits’ was ignited. The Sydney Arrow reported on Friday April 8 1932:
Pubs and Public Lose the Money Meant For Buying Beer
WHATEVER dreams Mr. Love, Hospitals’ Commissioner, might have had of exploiting fruit [poker] machines as a money spinner may be very rudely shattered by the decision of several city publicans to discontinue the use of machines in their bars.
Many have found, to their sorrow that, instead of showing a profit over the innovation, their sources of revenue are steadily decreasing.
Already several publicans have advised those in control to call and take away the machines, and it is quite on the cards that many more will follow suit during the next few days.
THE publican’s attitude is logical, and the position is this. He buys a certain quantity of six pence chips and on the transaction is allowed 25 per cent. If he purchases 200 for £5 he expects later to receive a cheque from the Hospitals Commission for 25 shillings. That is his profit, and he can’t expect any more. In fact he can look for losses.
Let us say a customer enters the bar and as usual he has about 10 shillings to spend on beer. Instead of patronising the bar he falls to the lure of the fruit machine and buys 10 shillings worth of chips. Into the machine they go one after the other. It doesn’t matter if he gets back any, they still go in the pursuit of kitty. Eventually (and it not long), his supply is exhausted, and as has often been the case he leaves the bar with out having a drink, or at the best, he might have one.
On the deal, the bar has made a profit of two shillings and sex pence, the 25 per cent, but if the customer had spent his 10 shillings over the counter instead of on the machine, a far greater, profit would have resulted. And even if the customer had landed kitty he would either lose the chips once more on the machine or speculate in bottled drink, out of which the publican makes only very small profit.
Two of the best known publicans in Sydney have told ”The Arrow’ that they have kept a careful check on their business since the installation of fruit machines and are firmly convinced that they are losing heavily through their introduction. The machines, they say, intent on the game and, according to the publicans, toasting valuable drinking time and money, are no inducement to custom as might be thought!
“It is quite a common thing,” said one of them, “to see the whole business disorganised at the rush hour through some argument, or the machine going bung. They are a nuisance.”
Further, another big bar to the success of the machines was exemplified to The Arrow representative when he saw on two occasions machines out of order, paying away merrily without coins being put in the slot. They were milked of several pounds. All one had to do was grasp the handle, pull it and wait until a “collect” turned up. Then out would pour the wealth. Of course this was the hospitals’ loss. So it is perfectly clear that if the machines are to be the success that was anticipated many remedies will have to be found first.
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