BATHURST won’t face a cap on poker machine numbers but Orange will under new legislation proposed by the NSW Government.
Bathurst has been classified as a medium risk area, but the majority of Orange has been classified as a high-risk area, meaning pubs and clubs there wouldn’t be able to increase the number of gaming machines under the new legislation.
However, one venue in north Orange, Waratah Sports Club, falls in a low-risk area.
The anomaly comes because the NSW Government will work off Australian Bureau of Statistics statistical zones in the future, rather than local government areas, allowing the government to focus on “vulnerable” locations.
They have been ranked according to the likely risk of gambling-related harm in the community from additional gaming machines, the government said.
“Local community caps are an appropriate response to concerns that some areas have too many gaming machines,” Minister for Racing and Bathurst MP Paul Toole said.
“These areas will be capped at their current number, ensuring no additional machines can move into these areas.”
Other areas across the Central West considered high risk are Lithgow, Cowra and Wellington.
As well as Bathurst, Dubbo and Mudgee have been classified as medium risk as part of this reform.
The government has also proposed a leasing agreement for gaming machines held by small pubs and clubs that are looking to go pokie-free while there will be a tenfold increase in fines for operators offering illegal inducements.
However, the Greens spokesperson for gambling harm Justin Field said the cap didn’t go far enough.
“Any pokies plan that fails to rapidly reduce the total number of machines in NSW continues to lock in increasing harm to people and communities,” he said.
“These measures don’t stop the addictive features that exploit people, they don’t rein in predatory behaviour from clubs and hotels to maximise profits and they don’t keep people and communities safe.”
But Mr Toole said the reforms were the “most significant changes to gambling regulation in NSW for a decade”.
The move comes after poker machine wagering in NSW in 2017 increased by $1.3 billion.
AHA NSW liquor and policing director John Green said he expected small hotels in regional areas would benefit from the introduction of leasing arrangements.
“Over recent years many country pubs have been forced to sell off their gaming assets when times got tough,” he said.
“Of course, they were only able to do this for as long as they had assets to sell. After the assets were sold, many were forced to close their doors.”
Clubs NSW CEO Anthony Ball said he was satisfied with the government’s review process.
“Ultimately, it needed to weigh up the interests of the industry against any potential for community harm and on that score the government has got the balance about right,” he said.
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