28 Dec

No More Pokies at Willunga’s “Top Pub”, Old Bush Inn

Throughout Australia, a trip to the pub is often a multifarious experience. Patrons can rent a room, grab a meal, down a beer, socialize with friends, and have a go on the pokies all in one place, making local taverns a popular stop for the majority of adult-aged Aussies. But one prevalent hangout in southeast SA has declared no more need for poker machines.

A staple of High Street’s frontage for more than a century, Old Bush Inn is considered by many locals to be the “top pub” in Willunga. Built in 1901 atop the previous Bush Inn (1870)—with roots dating back to 1839—utilizing much of the original Atkinson’s red brick foundation, generations of Willunga residents have made the pub a regular destination for an evening out.

About a year ago, a new set of owners invested in the famous property. Partners Gavin Collings and Christina Repetti took over the business, and have since found that its poker machines simply weren’t bringing in enough revenue to compensate for the space they occupied.

Collings and Repetti said their goal for the Old Bush Inn is to provide a more family friendly atmosphere; a social pub where patrons can enjoy a fantastic meal and the company of one another, without the distraction of poker machines around the corner.

No More Pokies at Old Bush Inn

Until last week, Old Bush Inn was home to 10 pokies, which the new owners claim weren’t enough to generate any respectable revenue. It didn’t help that, the majority of the time, the machines lay dormant while the establishment was losing business due to a lack of restaurant seating space.

“The machines often sat idle,” Repetti vindicated their decision to remove the gambling devices. “Meanwhile we are regularly turning people away on busy nights because we don’t have enough dining capacity.”

Thus, removal of the 10 poker machines gave Collings and Repetti the ability to expand their dining area, saving money on the cost of licensing pokies that patrons simply didn’t find enough interest in.

“Pokies are declining and the cost of running them can often outweigh the revenue,” explained Repetti, “especially when you only have 10 machines.”

Poker Machines Losing Popularity in SA

Throughout South Australia, poker machines seem to have lost their luster. Their revenue generation has fallen dramatically, mirroring abysmal results that haven’t been seen in more than a decade. The Office of Consumer and Business Services reported SA pokies players sent just $726 million on the machines in the last fiscal year; the lowest figure calculated since 2004.

As a result, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see more pokies pubs in SA taking a similar approach as that of Old Bush Inn’s new owners. Those who achieve a substantial portion of their business from non-pokies playing patrons will surely be taking a closer look at how the eliminating pokies fees and adding more space might help to build upon their current business.

Some have pinned the reduction in spending on poker machines to the increasing prevalence of online pokies. Coincidentally, that’s exactly where many loyal patrons of the Old Bush Inn who enjoyed an occasional spin on the reels will likely turn to continue taking pleasure in the historically entertaining pastime.