NSW under attack over pokie reform package

NSW Government reforms could lead to more poker machines, not less.

The NSW government is defending its proposed changes to gambling laws after the Greens said the reforms could actually boost pokies’ profits by $80 million a year.

Greens MP Justin Field says the coalition’s legislation would essentially stop pokies being forfeited and instead see them leased meaning there’d be a slowdown in the reduction of machines.

He argues allowing pokies to be leased would also see them moved from country to metropolitan areas resulting in more cash flowing to the industry.

Mr Field says profits will increase by at least $80 million a year “and possibly double that”.

“(Under the changes) there’d be absolutely no reason for venues that were thinking of getting out of the machines … to use the current forfeiture arrangement,” the Greens MP said on Monday.

“They would lease them.”

Mr Field expects there’d be almost 1200 more machines in NSW by 2020 than would be the case if the forfeiture system remained in place.

Already the Northern Rivers region is stripped of hundreds of millions each year by poker machines.

The total pokies take by pubs and clubs in Ballina Shire is $25,248, 313. Clubs account for 424 poker machines and pubs have 165 machines.

In Lismore, the clubs have 302 machines and the pubs have 157 machines, which combined have a net profit of $17,252,252.

Byron Shire, according to the report, had 271 machines in clubs, and 158 in hotels. They have a combined net profit of $12,728 126.

Richmond Valley Council area has 266 machines in clubs, and 94 in hotels, and they rake in $13,020, 825.

But Tweed Shire Council is the standout for poker machine profits, with 1,847 machines in clubs, and 209 machines in pubs. They have a combined net profit of $97,146,107.

But NSW Racing Minister Paul Toole says the Greens are wrong.

The minister insists the total number of machines in the highest risk areas of the state can’t rise.

“About 20 per cent of the state will now become a ‘no go’ zone for additional machines,” Mr Toole said in a statement.

“The total number of machines in these areas can’t increase through either trading or the leasing scheme we announced last week.”

At present when poker machine entitlements are transferred from one venue to another a percentage must be handed back to the government.
That’s seen a reduction from more than 100,000 machines in 2010 to just over 95,000 in 2017, according to the Greens.

Mr Field wants the proposed laws subject to a parliamentary inquiry and on Monday called on Labor to back the move.


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