Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Fears for poor if Social Services take a social slide?

About 350 clubs and pubs have applied for permission to install about 2300 extra poker machines in their venues in a process that could see machines move from richer to poorer suburbs.

The applications are the first under new rules requiring the applicants to weigh up the adverse social impact against economic benefits of their plans.These social impact assessments reveal information about the gambling spending in the suburbs concerned, for the first time since the Government stopped making the data cheaply available more than two years ago.

The data shows gamblers in poorer council areas, such as Auburn and Burwood, spend up to $1700 per adult per year - or about four times as much on the pokies as those in the richer ones such as Willoughby, Hornsby and Baulkham Hills.

The suburbs with lower average incomes also contain up to four times the number of poker machines per adult resident as those on the North Shore, according to information obtained by the Herald from more than two dozen social impact assessments.

The biggest application comes from the Balmain Tigers Club SuperDome project, which has applied for an extra 450 machines. Others include the Castle Hill RSL, which wants 150 new machines, the Western Suburbs Leagues Club in Leumeah (85) and the Illawarra Catholic Club in Menai (80).

A spokesman for the Gaming Minister, Richard Face, said approval would be "very hard to get".

If approved, the applicant must buy licences to operate the pokies from an existing operator, creating the opportunity for machines to be shifted from less profitable richer suburbs to poorer ones.

In Burwood, operators make an average of $71,755 profit per machine per year - nearly twice the NSW average, and more than double the $31,927 a year per machine in Goulburn.

Licences for pokies in hotels cost between $150,000 and $200,000 after forfeiting one in every three bought under a law designed to reduce the number of machines in operation. Licences for machines in clubs - which make less profit per machine - are understood to cost about $30,000 each.

According to the assessments, the proposals to move the machines would boost gambling spending in the new location and could increase problem gambling.

The director of the NSW Council for Social Service, Alan Kirkland, said it was very difficult to balance the impact of problem gambling against the broader community benefits.

The manager of Wesley Gambling Counselling Services, Rev Chester Carter, said problem gamblers would spend any money they had and pawn anything they could get their hands on.

Sydney City has the highest gambling expenditure per resident, because it is an entertainment centre with relatively few residents. There 28 hotels have applied for a total of 164 additional machines. Overall about 40 clubs and more than 300 hotels have applied to the Liquor Administration Board for extra machines.

Only those applying for more than four machines have to conduct the social impact assessment. Operators wanting to move machines from one venue to another more than one kilometre away also have to conduct such an assessment. The information obtained from these assessments is the latest available, although some date back to 2001.

By Pissed And Broke Jan 28 03

THE GOOSE: Money for Social Services may save more money. Perhaps, a bird in the hand saves two gamblers in the Pub/Club?


Club expects more problem punters
The Tigers' plan for a super club with 450 poker machines at the SuperDome could create almost 100 new problem gamblers in the five kilometres around the site, according to the Balmain club's application submitted to licensing authorities.