PUBS POKIE BOOM

By PETER CATON

THE Tweed is in the throes of a pubs and pokies boom leading counselling groups to fear a rise in gambling addiction.

Three new hotels valued at more than $6 million are set to open soon, each with poker machines.

Another $2.6 million worth of proposed exten-sions to another major club are awaiting Tweed Shire Council approval.

That is on top of the $7 million worth of extensions and renovations approved for Seagulls Club in September and the Salt Bar at the Outrigger Tavern early last year.

But the area has a shortage of venues where increasing numbers of elderly or lonely people can socialise without coming face to face with pokies or TAB betting.

One counsellor yesterday warned the biggest problem on the Tweed was loneliness, and few social activities were available at venues without poker machines.

The new pubs include:

The new $4 million Ivory Hotel in the Pier 2 development on the old Markwells fish factory site at Boyds Bay, Tweed Heads. It is set to open shortly after council approval last month of an increase in the size of the licensed floor area. Plans include installation of 15 gaming machines and TAB facilities.

A $1 million, threestorey tavern within the Terranora Shopping Village on Henry Lawson Drive. The tavern would initially seek approval for 24 gaming machines with room for six more. The Terranora Village shopping centre owners already have approval for the pub, but are seeking permission for a larger floor area, including a groundfloor public bar with full TAB facilities.

A $950,000 tavern fit-out inside the new Beach Resort at Cabarita Beach. A $50,000 bottle shop is planned nearby. The new "Caba" tavern would have 18 pokies and TAB facilities.

Tweed Heads Bowls Club is also seeking council approval for $2.6 million of renovations, including relocation of the gaming area and extensive refurbishment.

But like Seagulls, the bowls club does not intend to increase its already substantial numbers of pokies.

Lifeline counsellor Bill Durey said clients were constantly telling him "there is nowhere they can go to get away from poker machines".

"The biggest problem in the Tweed is loneliness. There is little social interaction for retired people and people with disability support unless it involves some venue that has poker machines," he said.

"Most of the social activity revolves around the clubs. Most people who go to bingo end up playing poker machines because during the breaks they are promoted."

"Even for bowlers it's very hard to dodge them."

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