Much of the reporting on poker machines focuses on the most impacted communities, but data analysed by Wesley Mission reveals that gambling harm is affecting every single community across NSW.
Wesley Mission CEO and gambling reform advocate, Rev Stu Cameron, says gambling harm is a public health crisis, and its effects are widespread.
“Last week, we released an analysis that named the top twenty local government areas with the largest losses. But the ugly truth is, gambling harm is rife across NSW,” says Rev Stu Cameron.
“The stereotype is that all the harm is in Western Sydney, and that other areas aren’t losing that much. We selected five electorates that people may assume wouldn’t be impacted – in Sydney, in regional NSW and on the coastal fringe – a legitimate cross-section taking in NSW’s major party Leaders along with the Gaming Minister and Shadow Gaming Minister.”
As a test, the analysis takes in Kogarah, Epping, Bathurst, Tamworth and Swansea electorates, overlaying available LGA data, the list of licensed premises that Liquor and Gaming release monthly, and the NSW electoral commission electorate boundary maps.
This exercise involved manually checking the physical location of each venue and extrapolating losses because accurate venue-by-venue data is not publicly available in NSW. Wesley Mission is calling for better transparency and data availability in its election policy platform.
“We knew that Georges River Council was alarmed last year to be seventh on the list of council areas experiencing the greatest losses. This led to them passing a motion calling on the major parties to implement a mandatory cashless card. Part of that council area lies in the electorate of Chris Minns, who has announced Labor’s policy will extend to a trial in the first instance. We hope with this evidence and with the gambling reform conversation experiencing something of a reset this week, that Mr Minns will take the opportunity to reconsider Labor’s position, and commit unequivocally before the election to the introduction of a cashless gambling card in the next parliamentary term,” says Cameron.
“Across the five electorates, losses in local clubs and pubs total more than $7 million each week. The 4,392 poker machines in just these electorates dwarfs the 2,323 in Tasmania’s pubs and clubs.”
Weekly losses & poker machine distribution
Pokie free Hotels
32 of 54
27 out of 47
Pokie free clubs
3 out of 8
4 of 22
11 out of 32
1 out of 14
% gambling venues in Band 3
Number of venues with permit to open until 5am
IRSAD quintiles (5 = most advantaged, 1 = most disadvantaged)
Bayside & Georges River: 5
Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai, Parramatta, The Hills: 5
Bathurst: 4 Oberon: 3 Blayney: 3 Mid Western: 2 Lithgow: 1
Tamworth: 3 Gunnedah: 2 Liverpool Plains: 1
Central Coast & Lake Macquarie: 4
Enrolled voter per EGM
25 Club GME
55 Club GME
4 Hotel, 46 Club GME
9 hotel, 53 Club GME
20 Hotel, 167 Club GME
- Highest losses of the five electorates in this analysis at $2.4 million a week
- Kogarah also has no pokie-free pubs or clubs, which is alarming because research shows that availability and accessibility of poker machines are directly linked to harm
- Even in leafy Northern Sydney, the 424 poker machines are taking over three-quarters of a million dollars each week
- Hotels own 6% of the poker machines but take 16% of the losses
- Lithgow LGA within Bathurst electorate is ranked in the lowest quintile of the IRSAD index, which highlights the damage that losing more than $1 million each week across the electorate must be causing
- Interestingly, more than half the pubs and even some clubs are pokie-free. This shows that it is not necessary to have poker machines to run a successful community venue
- This electorate is similar to Bathurst, with Liverpool Plains in the lowest quintile and electorate losses of more than $1.2 million a week
- There are many pokie-free venues, both pubs and clubs, but nearly 20% of gambling venues are in locations that are so severely impacted by gambling that the regulator (ILGA) will not allow more machines to be operated
- Swansea has the highest number of poker machines, and the highest density, with one machine for every 50 adults and the potential for 187 more machines to be brought in, increasing the current $1.6 million a week in losses
- There is only one pokie-free venue, and 36% of gambling venues are in severely impacted localities
Wesley Mission provides practical care and support for more than 130,000 people annually in NSW and across Australia, including help for people experiencing homelessness, local community action groups preventing suicide, and gambling and financial counselling among more than 120 programs. www.wesleymission.org.au
Rev Stu Cameron is available for interview.