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Gippsland Shire seeks to reduce gambling harm

Tue, Jun 4, 8:52am by Staff Writer

A group made up of gambling reform organisations is seeking Wellington Shire Council’s help to run its education and advocacy campaigns to reduce gambling harm.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform is inviting council to begin a partnership with it as a “leadership council”, along with 21 other state municipalities have already done so, according to the Gippsland Times.

It is seeking an annual $5000 contribution from the council, with the money raised through the partnerships funding harm prevention activities, and helping the alliance pressure organisations such as AFL clubs and Woolworths to “get out of the pokies business”.

Tamworth pokies cashing in

Poker machines in Tamworth reeled in more than $32 million worth of profits last year.

The recent report showed the region’s poker machine profit was increasing and while people were pouring more, on average, through the machines.

The most recent stats from the New South Wales office of Liquor and Gaming show Tamworth’s one-armed bandits raked in more profit in 2018 than 2017 despite being fewer in number.

Across the pubs and clubs in the Tamworth Regional Council area, pokies made $32,219,732.70.

The New South Wales government’s figures showed the pokies’ plunge in Tamworth had grown despite the number of machines and licenced premises shrinking.

In 2017, the region’s pokie profit was $2 million less than the 2018 tally, topping out at $30,179,144.82.

While the profits were more than 6 per cent higher in 2018, there were 16 more registered machines in Tamworth in 2017 and one additional licenced hotel.

On December 31, 2018 there were 742 gaming machines in 38 pubs and clubs in the Tamworth region.

This meant each machine in Tamworth drew an average profit of $43,422.82.

That’s more than $6000 greater than a year’s salary on minimum wage in Australia ($37,398.40).

Anglicare regional manager Claire Dunlop said gambling was very much an individual issue, but it had the potential to become a “community issue” if it wasn’t addressed properly.

“Pubs and clubs can be great venues to socialise at,” Ms Dunlop said.

“But there is the other side.”

She said gambling had almost reached a “saturation point” in Australia with cross-platform advertising and “apps aimed at making gambling easier”.

“It makes it hard for people with an issue with gambling all around them,” she said.

Anglicare has specific gambling and financial counsellors in Tamworth who work with people to deal with the root issues driving problematic gaming and assist with the better management of money.

She said there needed to be “better approaches to supporting people” starting with increased education for staff in licenced premises on dealing with problem gambling.

“If we don’t support people to make better choices, then more people will be making bad choices and there’s the long term impacts for the community like more people falling out of employment,” she said.

Tamworth’s pokies paid more than $5 million in tax in 2018.

Woolworths and ALH connection comes under fire

Woolworths’ pokies business has come under the spotlight again, with Yahoo Finance reporting that major shareholder Perpetual Investments is putting pressure on the company to rid its store of all gambling machines.

The push has since taken on a life of its own.

Not only because of shareholder concerns, but as a result of last year’s report on Woolworths’ misuse of the pokies.

The list of complaints included details recorded of bettors’ activities and bribing high-value customers with free drinks to gamble more.

Woolworths has been a business in Australia since 1924 and has grown consistently.

The New South Wales-based company employs more than 115,000 workers and claimed $56.7 billion in revenue in 2018.

The Woolworths Group parent company has the strongest ties to pokies.

In fact, the company is the largest hotel and gaming pokies operator in Australia.

In 2005, Woolworths expanded into the hotel industry, partnering with ALH Group to acquire properties.

ALH (Australian Leisure and Hospitality), is Australia’s largest pokies operator and incorporated pokies into their properties.

Those machines subsequently ended up comprising a significant portion of overall revenue.

As it stands, Woolworths owns 75 per cent of the ALH Group, which operates more than 12,650 pokies throughout Australia.

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