Vulnerable communities would become “no-go zones” for more poker machines under a raft of gambling reforms proposed by the New South Wales government.
About 20 per cent of the state was deemed “high risk” – including Fairfield, Granville and Auburn in Sydney’s west – and would be banned from getting any new machines.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data will determine what makes an area high risk, with the weighting of socio-economic factors growing from 33 to 70 per cent under the reforms.
“It looks at the income of those communities, it looks at unemployment – these are the factors that we need to consider when any application is being put forward for additional gaming machines in an area,” NSW Racing Minister Paul Toole told reporters on Tuesday.
“These areas will be capped at their current number, ensuring no additional machines can move into those areas.”
Much of western Sydney and many regional NSW areas will have the number of machines capped. The full list of high-risk areas can be viewed here in red.
Mr Toole acknowledged gambling affected all communities, but did not answer whether there could be a rise in poker machines in lower-risk areas as a result of the reforms.
Online gambling companies would also face a tenfold increase in penalties from $5000 to $55,000 for offering illegal inducements.
The federal, state and territory governments last year banned offers like bonus bets and money-back offers to entice gamblers.
Mr Toole described the proposal as “the most significant changes to gambling regulation in NSW for a decade”.
The state has the most machines and largest gambling losses in the country.
Allison Keogh, NSW deputy chair of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said the reforms were merely “business as usual”.
“The proposed cap on new applications in the hardest hit areas won’t even apply to all those applications currently in the pipeline, such as at the Fairfield Hotel,” Ms Keogh said.
“We welcome the cap on machine numbers in the worst affected areas, but really these areas need machine numbers massively reduced. Councils like Fairfield already have more machines than the whole of Tasmania.”
The Racing Minister, Mr Toole, rejected the claim that the legislation merely entrenched the status quo.
“Gaming machines in Fairfield can go no higher by having these areas that are capped. They can only go down, and that has to be a good outcome for the community,” he said on Tuesday.
NSW Greens gambling spokesperson Justin Field said the announcement failed to “adequately reduce the harms caused by these addictive machines”.
“Any pokies plan that fails to rapidly reduce the total number of machines in NSW continues to lock in increasing harm to people and communities.”
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.