Analysis by the NSW Greens estimates proposed changes to poker machine laws in NSW will significantly slow the reduction in total poker machine numbers in NSW and boost profits for NSW clubs and pubs by an estimated more than $80 million a year by 2020.
Under current legislation, when poker machine entitlements are transferred from one venue to another, a percentage of the machines are ‘forfeited’. This system has seen a reduction in total machine number from more than 100,000 in 2010 to just over 95,000 in 2017.
The proposed legislation creates new exemptions to the forfeiture scheme for regional hotels, creates a new option to lease machines rather than sell them, and will make club mergers easier. Each of these changes will undermine the reduction program and will result in thousands more machines being in NSW compared to the current system.
Greens MP and Gambling Harm Spokesperson Justin Field said the NSW Government was playing politics with the lives of people, families and communities impacted by poker machines in NSW.
“The new gambling legislation protects vested interests and the profits of the pokies industry while turning a blind eye to the serious harm caused by poker machines in this state,” he said.
“Community momentum for change is growing, but the Government has sided with the industry and has locked in the obscene number of machines that is widely recognised as causing unacceptable harm across the state.
“The Memorandum of Understanding between Clubs NSW and the Liberal National Coalition is paying dividends. The review that has led to these changes, as well as the leasing and merger proposals were key component of the agreement.
“The special treatment for pubs and clubs means that instead of poker machines being retired from the system, venues will now be allowed certain types of transfers, leasing arrangements and easier mergers that will protect poker machines numbers and profits at the expense of those impacted by poker machines.
“It’s also highly likely that the new transfer arrangements will see machines move from areas where they are less profitable to some of the state’s gambling harm hotspots, exacerbating community impact while bolstering club and pub profits.
“Poker machines are designed for addiction and already strip more than $8 billion a year from the NSW community. The NSW Government was already expecting industry profits to increase by approximately $600m between now and 2020. These changes will deliver millions more to the industry bottom line.
“I’m calling on Minister Toole to abandon these flawed laws and implement genuine harm minimisation approaches such as $1 maximum bets, restricting addictive features of machines and rapidly reducing the number of machines in NSW,” Mr Field said.