29 January 2024

Seven pubs across Riverina, Queanbeyan and Ulladulla push for more poker machines

| Oliver Jacques
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Outside of Commercial Hotel in Young

The Commercial Hotel in Young does not have any pokies but wants six of them. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Despite supposed State Government reforms to address the $8 billion lost by NSW residents to 87,000 poker machines in the past financial year, seven pubs and clubs across the Riverina and southeast NSW are trying to get even more pokies on their premises.

Hotels and pubs that want more pokies must first make an application to the state regulator, the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA), outlining their “positive contribution” and harm minimisation strategies to earn the right for a greater gaming machine entitlement.

READ ALSO ‘Captured’ Minns Government not serious about pokies reform, says anti-gambling advocate

An ILGA public register indicates the following pubs have applied for an increase: Commercial Hotel in Young, Criterion Hotel in Gundagai, White Tank Hotel in West Wyalong, Commercial Hotel in Junee, Hotel Yanco in Yanco, Queanbeyan Bowling Club in Queanbeyan, and Milton Ex-Servos in Ulladulla.

All the above applications are pending and awaiting a final decision on whether they’ll be approved by the ILGA.

Commercial Hotel, Young

This pub doesn’t have pokies but has applied for the right to install six in the establishment. The Commerical Hotel has listed a number of “responsible gambling measures,” such as separating the gaming room from the general bar area. It states a financial contribution of $245,395 will be made to the Responsible Gambling Fund if the application is approved. This fund raises money for gambling-related counselling, support services, awareness and education.

Criterion Hotel, Gundagai

The establishment already has 10 pokies and wants six more. It pledges to make patrons aware of the chances of winning and problems associated with excessive gambling through signage. It also highlights a $1000 weekly donation it makes to a local cancer charity and pledges to give $84,397 to the Responsible Gaming Fund in each of the next five years.

White Tank Hotel, West Wyalong

Has four pokies and wants to double that to eight. It pledges no free credit to gaming patrons and a total donation of $138,532 over five years to the Responsible Gambling Fund, paid in instalments.

Commercial Hotel, Junee

Seeks a threshold increase of five to give it a total of 20 pokies and says the machines will not be seen by the public outside the hotel and highlights donations of $25,000 plus per annum to various sporting clubs and charities. It’s total donation to the Responsible Gambling Fund is said to be $322,827 over five years.

Row of three pokies

The losses from pokies in the Riverina have been described as “extraordinary”. Photo: Wikipedia commons.

Hotel Yanco, Yanco

This premises doesn’t have pokies but wants seven. This includes transferring three entitlements from Whitton’s Rice Bowl Hotel and then subsequently gaining a further four entitlements.

It highlighted the sponsorship the pub provided to local community groups over the past 12 months. It states that the financial contribution calculated from average profit per machine for the Leeton LGA is $370,669.47 and will be paid to the Responsible Gambling Fund if this application is approved.

Queanbeyan Bowling Club, Queanbeyan

Already has 74 gaming machines on its premises and is seeking 20 more. It states that it will use the services of counselling service Bet SAFE and will make a contribution to the Responsible Gambling Fund in line with regulator guidelines.

READ ALSO Griffith ‘Medusa’ makes quarter-finals of hit TV gameshow Gladiators Australia

Milton Ex-Servos Club, Ulladulla

The large club has 114 poker machines and is seeking to gain the right to have 20 more. It pledges to go “above and beyond” to abide by legislation and says it will donate a total of $1,545,875 to the Responsible Gambling Fund in five installments over the next five years.

Overall increase in NSW poker machine numbers

The number of poker machines in circulation across the state increased substantially in 2022 and now exceeds 87,000, despite supposed NSW Government reforms to reduce the number.

“How many machines are too many poker machines, in your view, in terms of trying to reduce the harm from poker machines?” Greens MP Cate Faehrmann asked Gaming Minister David Harris at a 2023 parliamentary hearing.

“That will be for [an independent panel on gambling we formed] to direct us on. I think you’re asking me how long is a piece of string,” Minister Harris responded.

Alliance for Gambling Reform chief advocate Tim Costello has criticised the NSW Labor Government as being “captured” by the pokies industries and not serious about reform.

Analysis by Region indicates residents in Wagga, Griffith and surrounding small towns lost more than $100 million on pokies over the 2022-23 financial year, according to data provided to the ILGA.

Monash University’s gambling and social determinants unit has estimated NSW residents across the state lost just over $8 billion to poker machines over the same period.

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