NSW pokie laws could cause more harm than good

Proposed changes to NSW slot machine laws could increase the number of machines in high-risk areas and increase gaming industry profits by A$80 million ($62.9 million) a year, say opponents.

Last Tuesday, the NSW government announced new laws that would see vulnerable communities not being allowed additional slot machines in their venues.

High-risk communities will be decided based on their socioeconomic level as determined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

However, Greens MP Justin Field said the reforms also includes a provision that allows clubs and pubs to lease licenses on machines from other venues.

This means that machines in lower-performing areas could be leased to larger venues in high-revenue areas.

Field says the new laws, should they be passed, will see annual gaming profits increase by about A$80 million per year, and add an extra 1137 pokies to the state by 2020.

Field said he was told by an official from the Department of Liquor and Gaming that no modelling had been done on the impact of the proposed laws.

In a report from Sydney Morning Herald, Tim Costello, director of the Alliance for Gaming Reform, said the laws should be outright rejected.

“This legislation is a disgrace and it looks like it was written by Clubs NSW. We need to instead look at Labor’s proposal to remove pokies from all pubs and clubs in Tasmania, the appalling industry response effectively buying the Tasmanian election and how we can start treating the gambling industry like the tobacco industry.”

Both Field and Costello are calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the legislation before it is passed.

“The NSW government has no specific mandate to amend 16 different pieces of legislation like this and should delay the whole process until after the 2019 NSW election, so the community can have a say on whether NSW should continue on as the most pokies-soaked jurisdiction in the world, with the exception of Las Vegas and Macau,” said Costello.

“Rather than rushing through legislation which has clearly been heavily influenced by Clubs NSW, we need a parliamentary inquiry into how NSW residents have became the most gambling-harmed community in the world, and after that we need an official government apology to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been harmed over the decades by increasingly sophisticated and addictive poker machines.”

However, a spokesperson from Clubs NSW said there was no need for a parliamentary inquiry.

“There is no need for this well-thought-out piece of legislation to be referred to a parliamentary committee,” he said. “Justin Field may have nothing better to do, but there are far more important matters to deal with.

“The fact the anti-gambling lobby is critical of reforms which will reduce the risk of gambling harm tells you all you need to know about their motives. They are prohibitionists, plain and simple, and clearly they just don’t understand the government’s legislation.

“Consequently, they are prepared to make alarmist and baseless claims in the misguided hope they will be able to win support for their prohibitionist stance.”