Pokies Reform Push by Inner West and City of Sydney

Pokies Reform Push by Inner West and City of Sydney
Image: Pokie machines. Photo: Facebook/Industric.


Poker machines could soon have restrictions such as lockdowns between midnight and 10am in an effort to curb harm from gambling.

Both the City of Sydney and Inner West Councils passed motions on poker machine reforms earlier this month. The motion was passed unanimously in the City of Sydney.

In the Inner West, Greens Councillor Liz Atkins brought forth a motion urging reforms on poker machines to minimise the harm caused by this easy form of gambling. The motion was seconded by Independent Councillor Pauline Lockie.

The motion spoke of wanting to write to the NSW Premier and Opposition Leader to support “mandatory cashless gaming and harm reduction payment systems, a single state-wide self-exclusion register funded by gambling tax revenue, and for all poker machines in pubs and clubs to be turned off between midnight and 10am.”

However, an amendment to the motion was moved by Councillors Mark Drury and Philippa Scott. The amendment called for a “broad scale trial of cashless gaming and harm reduction payment systems for electronic gaming machines.”

A Watered-Down Motion

Both Cr Atkins and Cr Lockie were against the amendment.

Cr Lockie said of the amendment, “I was disappointed, but not surprised, that Labor struck out the parts of the motion Clr Atkins and I tabled on Tuesday night that would have seen Council advocate for strong, evidence-based reforms to reduce the great harm poker machines cause our community. This would have included pushing for Councils to be able to have a say over poker machine applications, which we currently have no power over.”

Cr Pauline Lockie. Photo: Facebook/PaulineLockie.

“Instead, Labor would only support a trial of cashless gaming. This is in line with the position of the NSW Opposition Leader, who’s only prepared to reform the gambling sector after a voluntary trial is held.”

“I know there are many in our community who want to see real change, and it’s a shame Inner West Council won’t be adding our voice to that call,” Cr Lockie said.

Councillor Atkins also noted, “Pubs and clubs do not need to rely on pokies profits to survive. Western Australia has no poker machines outside of casinos but still has 1,000 clubs and nearly 600 pubs”

The City of Sydney Lord Mayoral Minute that passed the night before the Inner West motion included all the campaign asks that the Labor party struck out in the Inner West. It seems that the Premier and Opposition Leader will be getting two very different letters from each Council.

Where do the Premier and Opposition Leader stand?

The motions for gambling reform by the Inner West and City of Sydney Councils mirror a similar call made by the Wesley Mission, who are campaigning the reforms ahead of the NSW State Election.

In an open letter to the Premier of NSW Dominic Perrottet and Opposition Leader Chris Minns, the Wesley Mission wrote, “As pastors, we can’t remain silent as we hear from people experiencing gambling addiction, who are at risk of physical self-harm, family members impacted by gambling harm facing repossession of a car or furniture, or even children going hungry.”

The Premier has made his stance on the matter clear, vowing to address problem gambling.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet. Photo: Facebook/Dom Perrottet MP.

“We have an obligation to look after our most vulnerable. We are going to do it, it’s non-negotiable,” Premier Perrottet said.

However, Opposition Leader Minns is less amenable to the reforms, claiming, “We are prepared to pursue that reform, but we want to understand what the scale and ramifications of that reform will be”.

Labor Leader Minns claimed he wanted to know the economic impact these reforms would have and cited job losses as a concern. However, the United Workers Union has said there is little evidence to show that job losses would occur as a result of cashless gaming.

The Inner West Gambling Issue

NSW is home to 20% of the world’s pokies with a whopping 86,640 machines as of June this year, which is more than any other state. Further, the Inner West ranks in the state’s top 20 Council areas for poker machine losses.

These reforms would go a long way to help curb the harm caused by gambling, according to Cr Atkins.

“We know that gambling contributes to poverty, poor mental health and suicide,” Cr Atkins said.

“The connection between gambling and domestic and family violence is also well documented; gambling leads to an increase in both the frequency and severity of intimate partner violence against women, as well as a higher prevalence of financial abuse.”

Moreover, Cr Lockie points out that poker machines have been used as a front for laundering, something that the NSW Crime Commission is keenly aware of.

“The NSW Crime Commission has found that billions of dollars of dirty cash from the proceeds of crime is being laundered through NSW poker machines, and their number one recommendation to combat this was that the government should introduce a mandatory cashless gaming system,” Cr Lockie said.

“A voluntary cashless gaming system wouldn’t work, as criminals seeking to launder money will simply opt to use cash instead.”

Pokies-Free Venues

Whilst Liquor & Gambling does publish six monthly gaming machine reports in the interest of transparency, the gambling reform motions call for venues to publish their own data every six months.

While some pubs may be resistant to these reforms due to the large amount of revenue poker machines bring in, others such as the Henson Park Hotel are prime examples that a pub can be successful without poker machines.

The Henson Hotel. Image: thehenson.com.au.

City Hub reached out to the Henson Park Hotel, who spoke about being unable to acquire a license for poker machines and needing to find another way to make the pub successful.

“With a focus on creating a community driven venue, attention and detail were put into good quality food and beverage, thus making it the venue it is today,” spokesperson for the Henson Park Hotel, Jade Few told City Hub.

“We believe that creating a venue around community, allows for a family focus and an all are welcome attitude.”

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