As NSW’ northern neighbour slips into lockout purgatory, more voices emerge to question the role of casinos in the changing landscape.
Further to the discussion in PubTIC Magazine’s latest edition, the exclusion of casinos from the lockout noose is poorly justified and reeks of politics.
News.com.au reports the City of Sydney stating it is “inappropriate” for the casinos to be exempt from a continued lockout policy in NSW – particularly in light of the connection between the NSW Liberal Party and The Star’s owner, Echo Entertainment.
“I note that several senior Liberal Party figures, including the former State Party President, have recently been appointed to the payroll of the Star City Casino,” said City of Sydney councillor Linda Scott.
“If lockout laws are to stay, it is totally inappropriate for gambling venues like Star City, with close links to the NSW Liberal Party, to continue to be given special exceptions from the laws.”
Last year, NSW Liberal Party president Chris Downy resigned to become general manager, corporate affairs, at The Star, which will likely involve lobbying the State Government.
He joins the former chief of staff to former deputy NSW premier Andrew Stoner, Rod Bruce, who similarly took a senior position with Echo in December, 2013 – just two months prior to Barry O’Farrell’s infamous introduction of the trade restrictions that have devastated the Kings Cross precinct and Sydney CBD nightlife.
Ostensibly preventing patrons merely from entering a different venue from 1:30, with 3am cessation of service, the rules have crushed the traditional late-night party zones of KX and Oxford Street as patrons flock to unrestricted areas or simply stay home and drink.
But unaffected by such rules, or the iron-fisted wrath of the Office of Liquor Gaming & Racing’s (OLGR) ominous list of so-called “violent venues”, The Star has seen massive increases – in both profits and assaults. Midnight to 3am is now the busiest period of a Saturday night.
And BOCSAR data shows the casino is now the undisputed Star of violence.
The heavily patronised ivy achieved the highest level on the OLGR violent venues list, and was penalised with mandatory plastic drinkware, drink marshals, early closing and numerous other restrictions over and above the lockouts.
Merivale diligence achieved a significant reduction to 14 incidents (down from 19) in the 12-month period to mid-2015.
BOSCAR reports The Star saw an average of 6.3 assaults per month in 2014, equating to 75 for the same 12-month period.
The Star self-reports an incredible 11 million visitors per year, although most would obviously not be at its bars after the 1:30am witching hour.
The casino says its figures amount to an incident rate of 1 per 230,000 visitors, which still equates to 47.8 incidents for the year.
Regulars report regular fights and unrest, particularly outside at the taxi rank – and frequently involving house security, which number around 200.
A recent incident reported on PedestrianTV showed the camera recording of around six big bouncers pinning and removing a French man who was there celebrating an occasion with his girlfriend.
The man said he got into trouble with security when his friend took a swig from their champagne bottle. The resulting scuffle saw him hospitalised, with his leg broken in two places, and facial injuries. He will be unable to work for six weeks.
This comes as Government is streamlining the entry visa process for high-rollers from China, on the basis that the casinos will ‘vet’ them before entry.
Meanwhile, Echo looks to spend another $1bn on The Star – following the $960 million spent in 2013 – to prepare for Crown Sydney’s arrival in 2019, which is currently slated at costing $2bn.
And both also continue to boom in the hapless Queensland, as seen in Echo’s $3bn casino and resort complex approved for Brisbane.