The Alliance for Gambling Reform today expressed dismay with the NSW Government’s proposed poker machine reforms which amounts to tinkering at the edges and won’t reduce world record levels of loss and harm.

The Alliance’s NSW spokesperson and deputy chair, Allison Keogh, who grew up in household impacted by gambling harm, said the NSW Government was failing to protect ordinary people and continuing to deliver for a predatory industry which makes obscene amounts of money from an addictive product.

“Whilst there are some minor gains such as increased community input into decision making and caps on machine numbers in the worst affected areas, these are more than offset by a series of decisions which deliver on the pokies industry wishlist for more profits and less regulation,” Ms Keogh said.

“These changes deliver on the dubious Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Coalition and Clubs NSW shortly before the 2015 state election and The Alliance is calling on the NSW Government not to sign another agreement with the industry.”

The Alliance is particularly concerned by a number of elements in the package including:

# It will be easier for clubs to merger creating giant chain of venues which do more harm than smaller single site venues and the dubious leasing arrangements tolerated with smaller clubs will limit any reduction in machine numbers;

# The package fails to actively reduce the 95,000 machines in NSW and the proposed cap on new applications in the hardest hit areas won’t even apply to all those applications currently in the pipeline, such as at the Fairfield Hotel.

# Industry transparency remains way behind Victoria with a failure to deliver on disclosure of annual losses at each of the 2600 pokies venues across NSW and the new “net profit” measure of losses is not consistent with other states.

# Whilst community organisations will be notified of pokies applications in high risk areas, there will no local impact assessment process for applications of less than 20 machines in less impacted areas where not even the local council will be informed.

# The co-regulation process with Clubs NSW effectively out-sources the government’s supervisory role to an industry which is already causing enormous harm in the community.

# There is still scant recognition of the hugely damaging impacts of addictive poker machines, especially of family violence, which Victorian regulators now take into account.

# The old scheme did have a very slow process for reducing poker machine numbers which was running at about 1000 a year but under these changes, poker machines numbers will not fall at all.

“By allowing Clubs NSW to have a say in the regulatory process, the government has effectively put the fox in charge of the hen house by making Clubs NSW the policeman of its own members,” Ms Keogh said.

“We welcome the cap on machine numbers in the worst affected areas, but really these areas need machine numbers massively reduced. Councils like Fairfield already have more machines than the whole of Tasmania.”

“This is just business as usual from the state with the worst pokies plague of any Australian jurisdiction. How can the government keep ignoring the harm caused by annual losses now exceeding $7 billion a year?”

The Alliance believes NSW has the worst pokies problem in Australia due to long-term industry capture reflected in the lowest pokies taxes in Australia, the greatest density of machines, the slackest regulations and the most dangerous machine designs with $10 maximum bets.

“But even starting from this base, the NSW Government is forecasting surging pokies tax revenues over the next few years as losses continue to rise because of a failure to properly regulate,” Ms Keogh said.

“The Government is both addicted to the revenue and captured by the industry, leaving the community suffering enormous harm. We call on the NSW Parliament to set up a proper parliamentary inquiry into poker machine harm before passing these proposed laws.”

Background documents:

Government response to LIA review:

Alliance submission to NSW LIA review:

NSW projecting rising pokies losses in 2017 budget:

World record losses – time for NSW to take action: