No additional gaming machines will be allowed in pubs and clubs at several locations across the Hunter and Lake Macquarie as part of a NSW government crack-down on problem gambling.
NSW racing minister Paul Toole announced the pokie cap on Tuesday, which means the government will not allow the number of gaming machines to increase in “higher-risk” communities across the state.
Belmont South/Blacksmiths, Beresfield/Hexham, Cessnock, Kurri Kurri/Abermain, Maitland, Mayfield/Warabrook, Mt Hutton/Windale and Raymond Terrace are classified as “band three” communities that would be subject to the cap, according to Liquor and Gaming NSW data.
The cap was one of the results of a review of gambling regulation, with a package of reforms introduced to NSW Parliament this week.
Other measures in the legislation include a tenfold increase in fines for gambling operators who offer illegal inducements, a lease scheme to help small hotels and clubs work towards becoming free of gaming machines and tougher penalties for club directors found to have done the wrong thing.
“Local community caps are an appropriate response to concerns that some areas have too many gaming machines,” Mr Toole said.
“A number of councils and community groups suggested caps and the NSW government agrees this is the right thing to do in higher-risk areas. Local community caps are part of a package of reforms that represent the most significant changes to gambling regulation in NSW for a decade.”
Australian Hotels Association Hunter branch president Rolly de With said on Tuesday afternoon that he was “still evaluating the impact on Newcastle and Hunter hotel operators”.
“At first glance, it appears to be a strengthening by the NSW government of the conditions pertaining to gaming in NSW,” he said.
AHA NSW liquor and policing director John Green said he expected small hotels in regional areas would benefit from the introduction of leasing arrangements.
“Over recent years many country pubs have been forced to sell off their gaming assets when times got tough,” he said.
“Of course, they were only able to do this for as long as they had assets to sell. After the assets were sold, many were forced to close their doors.”
Clubs NSW CEO Anthony Ball said he was satisfied with the government’s review process.
“Ultimately, it needed to weigh up the interests of the industry against any potential for community harm and on that score the government has got the balance about right,” he said.