Member for Murray Austin Evans has expressed his support for new NSW pokies reforms in state parliament, say they will help sustain rural clubs and pubs as the “lifeblood” of their communities.
The bill introduces a gaming machine leasing scheme, allowing establishments to lease out their rights to poker machines.
Mr Evans says new measures may be able to provide local pubs and clubs with the option of extra income if needed.
“The bill gives a much-needed helping hand to some of the small, struggling venues that are the lifeblood of their towns,” he said.
“Once an entitlement has been leased many small pubs and clubs will be able to use the space and the upkeep costs of gaming machines to offer improved services to their members and patrons.”
He says has seen what happens when country clubs and pubs are going through a tough time.
“I’ve been around the table when pubs are doing it tough. The concern has always been ‘if we sell it, we lose it’ but this provides options,” he said.
“It might just be a temporary solution to get a club through a rough patch.”
While the measures had the support of both major parties, they have come under fire from advocacy groups like NSW Alliance for Gambling Reform.
The Alliance’s NSW spokesperson and deputy chair Allison Keogh has accused the NSW Government of “continuing to deliver for a predatory industry which makes obscene amounts of money from an addictive product”.
“Whilst there are some minor gains such as increased community input into decision making and caps on machine numbers in the worst affected areas, these are more than offset by a series of decisions which deliver on the pokies industry wishlist for more profits and less regulation,” Ms Keogh said.
“There is still scant recognition of the hugely damaging impacts of addictive poker machines, especially of family violence, which Victorian regulators now take into account.”
She says the NSW Government falls way behind on poke reform, pointing to a failure to deliver on disclosure of annual losses at each of the 2600 pokies venues across the state.
Mr Evans says the legislation also provides for new classifications for areas across the state, targeting the issue in specific locations.
Previously, each council area was grouped together. A new zoning system takes into account a number of factors for each town or district.
“Each town is classified according to it’s own needs. Whole areas won’t be grouped together anymore,” he said.
“This way, we’re protecting people without penalising towns that don’t have a huge gambling issue.”
Areas identified as already vulnerable to gambling won't be able to get more pokies under the new laws.
Griffith Southside Leagues Club’s Anthony Lico says while local clubs are always looking to diversify, games revenue allows them to continue to operate.
“The fact is, the facilities clubs provide for the community are fairly extensive. Without gaming revenue, we would not be able to maintain sporting fields and it would be difficult to provide sponsorship and donations,” he said.
“It’s been a part of our business model for a long time but we are all looking to diversify outside our traditional forms of income.”