Punters flush away millions

More than one quarter of  million dollars a day was put through poker machines in Weddin, Cabonne and Forbes Shire pubs and clubs in 2017, with $9.4 million stripped from the community in gambling profits and taxes. Total turnover through machines was $94.4 million, with 10 per cent of that profit for operators and government tax, and 90 per cent returned to players in the form of payouts.

Comparatively, Cowra had $57 million in turnover last year and Hilltops (Young) and Yass had a combined $139.6 million. Weddin, Cabonne and Forbes had 289 poker machines at 30 venues in the LGAs, while Cowra had 171 machines at 11 premises and Hilltops/Yass had 359 at 30 locations.

The Greens’ Gambling Harm spokesperson Justin Field said: “What we are seeing across some areas of western NSW is the highest level of per capita losses experienced anywhere,” Mr Field said. Mr Field said NSW was one of the most saturated markets worldwide for poker machines.

“NSW is in a unique position because it has 10 per cent of all the world’s poker machines. There are 95,000 machines in the state while in most countries, they are only in casinos. “The only place that has more poker machines than NSW is Nevada.”

Lifeline Central West executive director Alex Ferguson said while problem gambling was a addiction that could ruin lives, he said poker machines were just one form of gambling. 

Mr Field said he acknowledged that pubs and clubs were important to towns, and said poker machine revenue formed the bulk of money used in the ClubGRANTS scheme that helped community development. However he said the model needed to change. “If a business model is based on devastation for the people who are using your facilities then that is a poor model. There is a social responsibility to reduce that harm.” 

The Greens were pushing for firmer regulations that would reduce the number of poker machines in venues and also reduce the maximum bets, Mr Field said. He said restricting bets to a maximum of $1 and also removing the ability to feed notes into machines would help restrict the amount people could gamble. If you or anyone you know has a problem with gambling contact 1800 858 858.

Last year Weddin, Cabonne and Forbes had 289 poker machines at 30 venues in the LGAs. Photo SMH

Last year Weddin, Cabonne and Forbes had 289 poker machines at 30 venues in the LGAs. Photo SMH