NSW government to put cap on pokies

High-risk communities in NSW will have their number of gaming machines capped under new laws.
High-risk communities in NSW will have their number of gaming machines capped under new laws.

Communities in NSW already vulnerable to gambling won't be able to get more pokies under new laws proposed by the NSW government.

But the NSW Greens and the Alliance for Gambling Reform say the proposed reforms won't solve the current pokie crisis in the state.

Under the gambling reform legislation, which was introduced to state parliament on Tuesday, 20 per cent of the state would be unable to have additional poker machines.

"Communities considered to be more vulnerable to gambling will be a no-go zone for additional machines," NSW Racing Minister Paul Toole told reporters on Tuesday.

High-risk communities will be decided based on their socio-economic level as determined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Socio-economic factors will now have a 70 per cent weighting when regulators assess gaming machine applications.

Much of western Sydney including Fairfield, Liverpool, Cabramatta, Horsley Park and Bankstown will be capped as well as parts of the Hunter region, mid north coast and country towns in western NSW.

Fairfield in Sydney's west is one of the biggest poker machine hotspots, with more than 3300 machines in clubs in the area compared to 118 in Woollahra in Sydney's east.

However, any applications for additional machines made before Tuesday will be exempt from the proposed legislation and will instead be assessed under the old regulations.

The proposed reforms have been slammed by the NSW Greens who say they don't include the measures which stop the addictive features of the machines which 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," Greens MP Justin Field said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr Field called on the government to introduce one dollar maximum bets and come up with a plan to rapidly reduce the number of pokies across the state.

"A cap on poker machines in vulnerable areas won't have a real impact on harm if pokies remain embedded in our communities in clubs and hotels and these addictive machines continue to exploit vulnerable people," he said.

Alliance for Gambling Reform NSW spokeswoman Allison Keogh said the government was failing to protect ordinary people.

"Councils like Fairfield already have more machines than the whole of Tasmania," she said in a statement on Tuesday.

Ms Keogh said the number of machines in areas such as Fairfield needed to be reduced not just capped.

The reforms also include increased penalties for wagering, making operators personally liable if they offer unlawful inducements and will bolster measures to address problem gambling across the state.

Some of the current local government area hotspots for gaming machines in hotels and clubs include Blacktown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Sydney's inner west, Central Coast, and Sydney city.

Australian Associated Press