Pokies relocation plan draws ire of lobby group

by Mia Chapman Last Updated
Queensland gambling regulator to look into Star allegations

A planned relocation of 1000 poker machines to Sydney’s Star Casino has been lashed by the powerful lobby group representing New South Wales clubs.

Sydney Morning Herald reports that ClubsNSW has warned of the grave impacts on regional venues should the proposal go ahead.

ClubsNSW chief executive Josh Landis described the potential deal, which is set to be considered by cabinet, as “crazy”.

“The casino wants to grow by feeding on the misfortune of regional clubs and pubs, by buying an astonishing 1000 extra poker machines from them at distressed rates because they have been trading so badly in recent years,” Mr Landis said.

“This will have a devastating effect on Sydney clubs, impacting the social lives of millions of people and causing the loss of as many as 2200 club jobs.”

Star plans new theatre and performance space if pokies relocation successful

As part of the potential deal with the state government, the Star could in turn develop a new theatre and live performance venue in Sydney.

A spokesman for Star said any request for additional slot machines for the casino was a matter for the NSW government, adding that the casino currently possessed 1.6 per cent of poker machines in NSW.

“In the right environment, we would have aspirations to develop a new theatre and live venue environment in Sydney,” the spokesman said.

When asked about the cabinet proposal, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: “don’t always believe what you read”.

The deal would result in the Star purchasing slot machine licences from struggling clubs across NSW.

Big revenue gains for Star as regional areas see pokies numbers fall

ClubsNSW predicted the additional 1000 poker machines could increase the Star’s revenue by up to $230 million per year.

More than $2.2 billion was lost to poker machines in NSW pubs and clubs in the first four months of 2021, with almost $600 million collected in April alone, up 12.58 per cent on April 2019.

The 100 lowest-ranked NSW clubs for recent poker machine profits operate fewer than 8 machines on average and are mostly golf and bowling clubs in regional areas.

Walcha (Northern Tablelands)n and Blayney (Central West) have both halved the number of poker machines in their five clubs from 26 in total to 13 over the past two years.

Wagga Wagga and Albury City have also cut machine numbers by more than 20 per cent since June 2019, removing 93 and 205 machines respectively.

Across the state, there are 2949 fewer machines in clubs this month than in June 2020 and 472 of those were moved out of regional areas.

The two most profitable clubs for poker machine revenue, Bankstown Sports Club and Mt Pritchard and District Community Club have 1360 machines in total and no spare entitlements.

They are both located in capped areas, classified as Band 3, that restrict who they can trade or lease gaming machine entitlements from and stop relocation of machines from clubs or pubs outside their area.

The Star casino is located in a Band 1 area with no cap on new pokies under the trading rules introduced in 2018.

Local community caps do not apply to individual venues, but to areas with the highest risk of gambling har, including the entire Fairfield local government area.

Regional areas had 12,468 pokies located in Band 3 areas, which are eligible to be traded to the Star, August 2021, liquor licence data shows.

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