Bush communities lose millions to pokies

by William Brown Last Updated
Victoria?s YourPlay program a failure

The Western Magazine reports that poker machine players in New South Wales have lost $19 million to hotels and clubs during seven months in a part of western New South Wales.

The data from Liquor and Gaming New South Wales shows that while the region suffers through one of its worst ever droughts, $18,951,287 was made in net gaming machine profits from December 2018 to June 2019 across 70 venues in the region.

The data includes hotels and clubs and was from the following government areas: Cowra, Upper Lachlan, Weddin, Hilltops, Forbes, Parkes, Cootamundra-Gundagai, Junee, Yass and Temora.

These venues paid $2,719,945 in tax on the gaming machine profits during the same time period.

The average net profit per machine was $17,166.

Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello claimed $779,000 an hour was lost on 93,165 machines across New South Wales in 2018.

Lifeline Central West offers problem gambling counselling and chief executive officer Stephanie Robinson said she was shocked by the data, especially since much of this region was amid a devastating drought.

“It is incredibly concerning to me and it does shock me, but then I understand the power of addiction and it is a very strong addiction,” she said.

“It preys on quite vulnerable people…they’re gaming machines designed to be highly addictive.”

Ms Robinson said hotels and clubs were often community hubs offering cheap meals and free entertainment that “hook you in”.

In February 2018, the Federal Court of Australia’s Justice Debbie Mortimer cleared James Packer’s Crown Resorts and Aristocrat Leisure of allegations that the well known Dolphin Treasure poker machines were unlawfully deceptive and designed to feed addiction.

The New South Wales Gambling Survey 2019 found that 53 per cent of 10,000 people surveyed had gambled in the past 12 months and that one per cent of the population were problem gamblers.

A Club New South Wales spokesman said the net revenue earned by clubs from poker machines in the Cowra, Forbes, Parkes, Cootamundra and Hilltops local government areas in the past six months was up by just 0.17 per cent compared to the same period in 2018.

Whittlesea council calls for urgent pokies reforms

City of Whittlesea councillors in Victoria were united at their September council meeting on calls for gaming machine reform throughout the municipality.

Councillor Caz Monteleone called for council to declare its community is facing a poker machine emergency and call for the state government to urgently undertake pokies reform.

It also called for council to write to the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation to request a community forum be established to tackle the epidemic.

Cr Kris Pavlidis amended the motion, including continued advocacy to the state government, raising ongoing awareness and education sessions, continued partnership with local organisations and continued advocacy for language specific resources for culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Cr Monteleone said council knew pokies were a big problem in the City of Whittlesea.

“I ask that we write to the state government and tell them the hard truth that we don’t want this to continue,” he said.

“This is a real issue and it’s as bad as family violence or any other issue facing our community.

“Last year alone, losses increased by $1.4 million. We’re not going to wait five years to review our strategy – we need to send a message to the government now.”

Cr Pavlidis said a council social impact study revealed people were taking their own lives due to financial problems caused by gambling addiction.

“This scourge is not going away and needs proactive, educated responses. We need to look for opportunities to raise awareness of the harmful impacts,” she said.

“It’s not about prohibition, it’s about regulating access to gaming machines.

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