By Clyde Mooney
Melbourne's recently redeveloped, heritage-listed Queensberry Hotel is under fire for operating gaming machines in close proximity to “vulnerable social housing residents”.
After an expensive restoration of the 1890 building, the hotel re-opened in February this year and installed 30 gaming machines, which were approved by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.
Only blocks away, another prized heritage-listed building, the 1937 Royal Melbourne Regiment Drill Hall, was being dubiously re-vamped into 59 cheap public housing units.
There are 339 pubs listed as within walking distance to the Drill Hall building, many of which have gaming machines. One local publican told TheShout that the housing projects were turning an otherwise upward area into a "social dumping ground".
Queensberry Hotel co-owner Anne Barrett told TheShout the hoteliers had carefully considered the potential social impacts of their gaming machines.
“We looked at the implications [of gaming machines] on both university students and the housing commission development," she said.
“Research shows that the students are more interested in influential gambling, such as blackjack, not poker machines."
“In terms of the public housing residents, we are eager to work with local social services to prevent them entering or being ‘drawn in’ by our gaming room.”
The Drill Hall building was transformed into eight floors of social housing as part of the Federal Government’s stimulus plan.