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Byron Shire
March 6, 2021

Pokies sucking life out of Richmond community

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In the Richmond electorate, poker machine user losses are expected to exceed 20 per cent of median individual income, according to a report released this week.

UnitingCare Australia has called for tighter consumer protection measures on poker machine gambling in light of the new research.

UnitingCare commissioned Monash University to investigate the level of poker machine losses and the community benefit claims in 41 federal electorates in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT.

National director, Lin Hatfield Dodds said the findings reveal that people living in disadvantaged areas lost a much greater percentage of their income on poker machines compared to their more affluent neighbours.

‘It’s clear from the research that poker machine owners are concentrating the machines in communities where people can least afford to lose large sums of money,’ Ms Hatfield Dodds said.

In Blaxland in Sydney’s southwest, poker machine losses average more than a third of the electorate’s median income for that proportion of the population estimated to use the machines.

User losses were also expected to exceed 20 per cent of median individual income in five other electorates – Marybyrnong (Vic), Banks (NSW), Bruce (Vic), Richmond (NSW), and Hotham (Vic) – and 10 per cent in almost half the electorates examined.

Report author, Dr Charles Livingstone, said the impact of this level of expenditure on individuals, families, communities and the local economy is likely to be extreme, and to be damaging to social and community infrastructure and social capital.

Richmond has a median individual income of just over $460 a week or less than $24,000 a year, but annual poker machine losses amount to around $5,000 each for those people who use the machines.

The 2,905 machines in Richmond collect an average of more than $39,300 a year. This disadvantaged population of less than 100,000 lost over $114 million on poker machines in 2010-11.

The community benefit in Richmond as reported by the poker machine industry looks generous at $1.8 million, but this is only 1.6 per cent of the money lost on the machines.

‘The community benefits claimed by poker machine operators do not offset the social and economic impact to any serious degree, if at all,’ Dr Livingstone said.

‘Resources are being diverted away from other financial and commercial activities towards poker machine gambling at a significant rate, with a concentration of this process amongst the most disadvantaged communities

‘The public health and community welfare implications of this are significant, not simply for current users, but for their family, children, neighbours, employers and the community generally,’ Dr Livingstone said.


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