High risk communities in Central West to have pokie numbers capped

Narromine won’t face a cap on poker machine numbers but Far West communities such as Nyngan-Warren are classified as “band three” communities that would be capped.

Narromine has been classified as a medium risk area, but the majority of communities has been classified as a high-risk area, meaning pubs and clubs there wouldn’t be able to increase the number of gaming machines under the new legislation.

The anomaly comes because the NSW Government will work off Australian Bureau of Statistics statistical zones in the future, rather than local government areas, allowing the government to focus on “vulnerable” locations.

They have been ranked according to the likely risk of gambling-related harm in the community from additional gaming machines, the government said. 

“Local community caps are an appropriate response to concerns that some areas have too many gaming machines,” Minister for Racing and Bathurst MP Paul Toole said.

“These areas will be capped at their current number, ensuring no additional machines can move into these areas.”​

The government has also proposed a leasing agreement for gaming machines held by small pubs and clubs that are looking to go pokie-free while there will be a tenfold increase in fines for operators offering illegal inducements.

However, the Greens spokesperson for gambling harm Justin Field said the cap didn’t go far enough.

A map shows high-risk areas for problem gambling and social disadvantage (shaded red) where poker machine licences will be frozen. Orange represents medium risk and green a low risk community. Photo: NSW Department of Industry

A map shows high-risk areas for problem gambling and social disadvantage (shaded red) where poker machine licences will be frozen. Orange represents medium risk and green a low risk community. Photo: NSW Department of Industry

“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,” he said.

“These measures don’t stop the addictive features that exploit people, they don’t rein in predatory behaviour from clubs and hotels to maximise profits and they don’t keep people and communities safe.”

But Mr Toole said the reforms were the “most significant changes to gambling regulation in NSW for a decade”.

The move comes after poker machine wagering in NSW in 2017 increased by $1.3 billion.