WITH the New England electorate losing more than $60 million to pokie machines in 2016, Greens’ candidates Peter Wills says it’s time to put people before pokies.
The figures from the Alliance for Gambling Reform show the electorate has more than 1700 pokies, with Tamworth alone home to 732.
Mr Wills said clubs and pubs played an important role in the social and cultural life of rural towns, but addictive pokies were putting a handbrake on what clubs could contribute to their communities.
“Communities like Armidale and Tamworth can’t afford to lose tens of thousands of dollars a day to addictive poker machines, but that’s exactly what’s happening with every press of the buttons,” Mr Wills said.
“Pokies are draining wealth from rural areas and diverting it to massive gambling corporations. The money is not spent through local businesses, nor does it pay for the misery caused by gambling.
“Despite the myths of the gambling lobby, addictive pokies actually reduce the ability of rural communities to support their local sports clubs and cultural activities.”
The harm isn’t just financial, Mr Wills said – for every person trapped with a gambling addiction, the impact spreads out to a further five or six more family members and friends.
While gambling is primarily a state government issue, Mr Wills said he and his party were campaigning to put people before pokies.
“We aim to increase the transparency of the gambling industry through venue-by-venue reporting of community losses to poker machines, and to reduce the overall number of pokies in NSW, particularly in clubs and pubs,” he said.
“Another important goal is to reduce the harm of pokies through strategies like $1 bet limits.
“In Victoria and South Australia, the Alliance for Gambling Reform has brought together numerous local councils, church groups, and community organisations, who want to reclaim their local pubs and clubs back from the pokies.
“NSW would benefit from a similar strategy, and the Greens stance is to support New England communities by putting people before pokies.”
Number of pokies and losses in 2016
- Tamworth region - 732 poker machines. Total losses in 2016 were $32.4m
- Armidale - 274 poker machines. Total losses in 2016 were $10.3m
- Inverell shire - 178 poker machines Total losses in 2016 were $6.9m
- Upper Hunter - 218 poker machines. Total losses in 2016 were $5.2m
- Glen Innes - 106 poker machines. Total losses in 2016 were $3.5m
- Liverpool Plains - 106 poker machines. Total losses in 2016 were $3.1m
- Tenterfield shire - 93 poker machines. Total losses in 2016 were $2.2m