Which Sydney suburbs gamble the most?

Which Sydney suburbs gamble the most?

“When I walk down the street and I see the lights and hear the sounds [of the gaming machines] it feels like they’re calling me, and I’m sure it does that for a lot of other people,” she says.

The 49-year-old mother who lives in Burwood says counseling provided by the Wesley Mission and other charities has helped her “reduce the harm” of poker machine use.

“I used to play every time I had a dollar, but now I only play once a week or once a fortnight,” Michele says.

NSW poker machine losses total $135 billion over the past 30 years, new research shows.Credit:Peter Braig

Wesley Mission chief executive Stu Cameron said hundreds of millions of dollars a year were being “siphoned out” of communities by poker machine losses that could be spent at local businesses and on the welfare of families, including housing.

“Looking at pokies losses by LGA in Sydney, it is immediately obvious that the suburbs that are losing the most money are the suburbs that can least afford it,” he said.

Wesley Mission used historical national gambling data published by the Queensland Statisticians Office to estimate total poker machine losses in NSW have been $135 billion over the past 30 years. NSW was the first state to legalize poker machines in 1956.

In response to Wesley Mission’s findings, a spokesperson for ClubsNSW said: “It is unclear why anyone would be interested in comparing the poker machine losses of NSW and Victoria that have occurred over a period of three decades — Crown Melbourne didn’t open until 1994 , The Star didn’t open until 1995, and NSW pubs didn’t have poker machines until 1997. Clearly, these discrepancies would deliver a skewed comparison.”

The spokesperson said clubs in the state were already “the safest places to play gaming machines” and that the industry was strengthening its approach through a new Gaming Code of Practice, announced in July.

“It should be noted that the Australian Gambling Statistics Report shows that real per-capita gaming machine expenditure in NSW peaked in 2004 and has been falling ever since,” the spokesperson added.

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Tim Costello, chief advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said Wesley Mission’s research underscored the need for more effective regulation of poker machines, including reduced access to gambling venues and slower gaming machine betting speeds.

“Poker machines are NSW’s blind spot,” he said. “Why do we have such big gambling losses? It’s because of accessibility.”

Cameron said NSW was “ready for change” in gaming regulation. Wesley Mission is calling for a curfew on poker machine venues opening between midnight and 10am; a limit on the number of gaming machines in NSW; a maximum of $1 bets on poker machines in clubs and hotels; and a local council veto over additional poker machines in their area.

*Not her real name. She requested this alternative to protect her identity from her because of the stigma attached to gambling addiction.

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