Push to keep gaming rooms shut

If poker machines were banned in the Blue Mountains, more than $1 million a month could potentially be spent at local businesses, says Greens councillor Brent Hoare.

In 2019, almost 560 machines in the Blue Mountains took $363,600 each week of the year, he says.

"This is money that otherwise would most likely have been spent on buying goods and services from local businesses in the Blue Mountains," Cr Hoare said.

After just one month of poker machines being unused due to the closure of pubs and clubs due to coronavirus restrictions, that's a saving of almost $1.5 million.

"Of course, some of that will have been spent on online gambling, but in just one month well over one million dollars is now in people's pockets to be spent on healthy goods and services," Cr Hoare said.

"Imagine what it would be like to have an extra one million dollars a month spent every month on Blue Mountains small businesses?"

As coronavirus restrictions begin to ease, he's urging the state government to keep gaming rooms shut as pubs and clubs re-open.

"Even if just for a few months, we can support quality social connections and provide more employment for artists, musicians, dancers and actors in venues where staff feel it's a safe workplace and where pokies are quiet," Cr Hoare said.

"Spending money on food and beverages and entertainment creates more jobs than money spent on poker machines, and as a city of the arts, I hope the Blue Mountains will embrace the need for fun social hubs where we can rebuild our social networks after the coronavirus shutdown, and where there is plenty of live entertainment."

According to the SMH, data from credit bureau illion and analytics firm AlphaBeta, sampling the transactions of 250,000 Australians, the weekly spending on online gambling has gone up by 142 per cent during the lockdown.

A ClubsNSW spokesman said the shift to online gambling during the shutdown was concerning.

"The real concern is that much of this spending is likely to be with illegal offshore online casinos, which are unregulated and have none of the safeguards that are available in clubs," he said.

"The re-opening of clubs is also critically important for the 41,000 people who are directly employed by the industry, the holders of 6.7 million memberships who choose to socialise at clubs, and the thousands of community groups and charities who share in $120 million worth of club grants funding annually.

"In the Blue Mountains Local Government Area alone, there are 10clubs who employ 200locals, pay $1.4 millionin taxation to the NSW government which is spent on infrastructure such as roads and hospitals, and provide safe and comfortable facilities for the 24,440holders of club memberships."