22 March 2024

Regulator quizzed on blocking Dan Murphy's from Griffith, pokies increase

| Oliver Jacques
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Two women in park

ILGA chair Caroline Lamb and former Griffith councillor Pat Cox, who says there are already too many pokies in town. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

A senior figure from the state’s alcohol and gambling regulator visited Griffith on Tuesday (19 March) to explain her role, meet media and consult with community groups.

Caroline Lamb is the chair of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA), the body which makes decisions on whether a town can get more bottle shops and whether a pub can get more poker machines, among other things.

Region took the opportunity to quiz Ms Lamb on two burning issues in town – why the ILGA stopped popular alcohol retailer Dan Murphy’s from opening a bottle shop here, and why the number of poker machines in NSW has increased despite supposed government reforms to reduce problem gambling.

READ MORE Regulator blocks Dan Murphy’s from opening Griffith store due to high domestic violence rates

When the ILGA blocked Dan Murphy’s application to set up a bottle shop in Griffith, it cited the town’s high domestic violence rate as a key factor. However, towns with a higher domestic violence rate than Griffith [like Wagga] already have a Dan Murphy’s in their town. How is this possible?

There is a multitude of factors [we consider]; Dan Murphy’s is only one of the liquor outlets in the state, we don’t target any particular distributor. Where there is already an awful lot of liquor outlets in a particular area we look at that as one of the factors as to whether the community really needs an additional outlet.

Does the fact that Dan Murphy’s sell a lot of cheap beer and spirits count against it, as opposed to say a high-end wine outlet?

You can buy cheap wine in a cask as well.

As a general principle, discounted liquor tends to be associated with some increased alcohol-related harms; that’s the kind of evidence we consider when we look at these applications. We do it very much on a case-by-case basis; we don’t have general rules or general principles, that’s the job of the government. We look at the factors associated with the particular application and particular venue.

The number of poker machines in NSW keeps increasing despite supposed NSW Government reforms to cut the number of pokies. Why does the ILGA keep giving us more poker machines?

I don’t think it’s correct to say ILGA is giving us more poker machines, some people would say we don’t approve enough applications.

While the number of gaming machines in operation in NSW in 2022/23 was 87,328 – a slight increase from 86,747 in 2021/22 – there are significantly fewer machines in operation compared to pre-pandemic levels.

READ ALSO Griffith business ‘fraudulently’ claimed to have bought $200 million worth of wine to get GST refunds, ATO alleges

When machines are transferred from one venue to another, there is a requirement that one in three machines should be surrendered.

We don’t set the policy, we administer the law that is passed by the parliament. If the government puts in place laws that requires to take into account the absolute number, we will do so.

ILGA is concerned with the potential for gambling-related harm from the operation of gaming machines and supports measures to minimise this harm.

There are several clubs in the Riverina trying to get even more pokies. Will the ILGA consider the overall number of pokies in the state when deciding whether to approve pending applications?

ILGA considers applications on a case-by-case basis.

In making its decisions, ILGA considers a broad range of factors, including how an application may impact the community.

The number of gaming machines in operation is one factor which ILGA considers.

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