the winner of Sydney's lockout laws is ... Star casino!
- 30th August 2014
and Bars Casinos
and goings at the Star Casino. Photo: Cole Bennetts
As the clock ticks by on a damp, wintry Saturday night,
a trickle of revellers crossing Pyrmont Bridge turns
into a steady flow. Faced with a strict 1.30am lockout
in Sydney's CBD, those who don't want to go home are
heading to the Star casino where different
licensing laws mean the party kicks on all night.
employees, police, party-goers and taxi drivers say
the Star has been a major beneficiary of the NSW government's
liquor reforms. The laws, in effect since February,
prohibit patrons entering pubs and clubs in Kings
Cross and the CBD after 1.30am and stop bars serving
drinks after 3am. The lockout zone ends at Darling
Harbour, which makes the Star exempt.
couldn't get in anywhere else so this is our last
place to come and go," said 18-year-old Melissa
Abarca. She and three friends, all from Wollongong,
aren't here to gamble, though they concede they're
likely to have a flutter.
party-goers Olivia Jurd, Melissa Abarca, Taylor Erskine
and Courtney Quinn at the Star Casino - their only
option because of the lockout laws. Photo: Cole Bennetts
None of the group has been to the Star before and
they are visibly relieved when informed it contains
a nightclub where they can dance.
would have liked to get in to an actual club but we're
Association of NSW president Scott Weber says more
and more patrons are migrating to areas outside the
lockout zone such as Newtown and Pyrmont, attracted
by 24-hour venues including the Pyrmont Bridge Hotel
and the Star.
an epicentre for alcohol can lead to massive issues
with alcohol-related violence," he says. "It's
a recipe for disaster."
a wet weekend when the Herald visits the city is largely
deserted and nearby Darling Harbour is dead. But inside
the Star, it's a very different story.
after midnight, two queues snake away from the entrance
to Marquee, the casino's nightclub. The gaming floor
is packed and the venue's other bars are doing a roaring
trade. Young men and women pour out of taxis and eagerly
climb the escalators into the mecca above.
employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said
the venue was definitely busier later in the night
since the lockout was introduced.
see more people coming in later than you used to,"
said one employee, who has worked in various parts
of the business for two years. Bars inside the casino
that previously closed before 2am are now staying
open much later, he said.
opposed to people coming in around 10pm, 11pm you
see a lot of people coming in [at] 1am, 2am. And people
still coming in [at] 3am, 4am even as we're trying
to close the bar."
had warned staff to expect a bump in trade and to
ensure responsible service of alcohol provisions were
strictly adhered to, employees said. But bars and
restaurants were still regarded as "window dressing",
one said. "Gambling is where it is we're
there to bring people in".
casino denies it has benefited from the lockouts and
says attendance is much the same since the lockout
came into effect on February 24.
Star has not seen an increase in patronage since the
lockouts were introduced by the NSW government,"
a spokesperson said. "In fact, the Star's head
count on Friday and Saturday nights has fallen slightly."
casino would not provide patronage figures or confirm
whether the head count included periods on a Saturday
and Sunday morning.
the same time, the Star's business has surged. In
an announcement of its full-year results, owner Echo
Entertainment boasted about "significant acceleration
of revenue growth in the second half of the financial
pleasing was the performance of the Star," where
domestic gross gaming revenue rose 4.2 per cent, and
total underlying revenue rose 6.8 per cent, for the
of the growth" at the Star occurred in the second
half of the financial year, the report said. From
January to June, the Star's underlying revenue was
$715 million up $109 million, or 15 per cent,
on the same period last year.
company puts the Star's success down to marketing
efforts, its customer loyalty program and new facilities
from its billion-dollar renovation "gaining traction".
It also notes the venue's operating expenses increased
more than $500 million due to "increased activity
across the business".
premier Barry O'Farrell intended the policy to help
curb alcohol-fuelled violence after two deaths following
"one-punch hits" shocked the city. Official
crime statistics due for release next week will be
the first proper opportunity to measure the lockout's
would not respond directly to questions about the
impact of the laws in the Pyrmont area. But independent
Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, who conducted a community
forum last week, said locals reported an increase
in anti-social behaviour and people wandering the
streets, particularly in the early hours.
Greenwich said the lockout "creates a honeypot
effect for the Star casino" and called for the
zone to be expanded, but with exemptions for other
venues that have a good safety record.
The lockout has also changed life for taxi drivers.
Issa Sarkis says that come 1.30am, punters are either
heading home early or going to the Star.
the only place we're picking up really from,"
he says. On this night he had five jobs from the city
to the Star between 1am and 2.30am, but there was
little other work going. "So it makes it worse
on the streets of Pyrmont, Tess James is being dragged
along to the casino with a birthday party contingent.
She finds herself ending up there more frequently
these days, even though it's far from her favourite
either go to the Star or end up on the street,"
Sydney Morning Herald)