Alliance for Gambling Reform targets Bathurst Regional Council election

RACING Minister Paul Toole says the NSW Government is looking at poker machines and their impact as part of a current review.

But he has emphasised that clubs, where many poker machines are located, remain important to communities as a social hub and as a sponsor of sporting groups.

Mr Toole was responding to lobby group Alliance for Gambling Reform’s decision to target Bathurst councillors ahead of the local government election in less than two months.

The alliance, based in Victoria, which says “poker machines are the crystal meth of gambling”, has written to each of the city’s seven councillors asking them to publicly commit to a pledge to limit statewide poker machine losses to $5 billion a year.

The alliance says poker machine losses in NSW last year were $5.7 billion. 

It says it is targeting Bathurst councillors because Mr Toole, who is the minister responsible for NSW Liquor and Gaming, is the local member.

Mr Toole said the NSW Liquor and Gaming Local Impact Assessment Review had recently stopped receiving public submissions and he will be responding to that review “in coming months”.

The review is looking at the effectiveness of the Local Impact Assessment – which is completed when a club or hotel wants to increase the number of gaming machines in its venue,​​ or when a hotel or club changes location - in minimising harm and reducing the number of gaming machines in the state, among other issues.

“The review sought feedback from stakeholders, including clubs and community groups across the state,” Mr Toole said.

He said the banding system – in which local government areas are classified according to factors such as the per capita gaming machine expenditure and socio-economic statistics – was already in place to assess the impact of an increase in poker machines.

But Mr Toole wanted to emphasise that clubs give back to the community.

”It may be a place where people can go and enjoy a quiet beer, enjoy the restaurant, it might be where 18s and 21sts and special events are held,” he said.

“They also sponsor local sporting teams and lots of community groups.”

The Alliance for Gambling Reform says good policies over decades have reduced smoking’s impact on Australia, but politicians “have failed the community on gambling harm”.