By James Atkinson

Sales through Woolworths' hotels business were $759 million for the half year to December 30, an increase of 19.3 per cent on the previous year, the company reported.

Sales through Australian Leisure & Hospitality Group (ALH) were $380 million for the second quarter, an increase of 21.4 per cent. 

CEO Grant O'Brien yesterday said there were a couple of highlights in the hotels business, "one of which is food". 

"We've continued to grow the food business really well and the comparative growth of gaming has also been pleasing particularly in Queensland and NSW," he told analysts.

Chief financial officer Tom Pockett said the impact of legislation banning ATMs in Victorian gaming venues had been partially offset by the new venue-operator model that came into effect in the state on August 16 last year.

"We can now control the quality and type of machines that we have. Therefore we are now in the process, probably over the next 12-to-18 months [of] refreshing the fleet, similar to the fleet we have in Queensland, of machines that we have throughout that hotel network in Victoria," he said.

"There's a lot of dynamics going on but it's all moving in the right direction, the benefit [we thought we'd get] out of the Vic gaming legislation changes is pretty much where we expected it to be."

Woolworths said ALH's growth was also driven by the acquisition of 29 hotels in NSW, two in Queensland and one in WA.

ALH CEO Bruce Mathieson Junior said efforts are now focused on continuing to implement ALH operational standards into the new venues. 

"We are also currently trialling our new back-of-house gaming systems, which will allow for the introduction of voluntary precommitment technology across the network by December 2014 and will help to support our commitment to responsible gaming," he said.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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