Ballina Shire Council wants increased monitoring of poker machines.
Ballina Shire Council wants increased monitoring of poker machines. Contributed

Pokies are 'crack cocaine of gambling', Ballina council told

BALLINA Shire Council will be writing to the State Government to ask NSW Liquor and Gaming to increase its monitoring and compliance checks on poker machines at venues in the shire.

The council also will raise a motion at the NSW Local Government Association conference for that organisation to follow suit.

Speaking from Perth in a phone deputation to council, long-term national anti poker machine campaigner, the Reverend Tim Costello, said electronic gaming machines were the "crack cocaine of gambling".

He supported the council's move on the machines.

He said pokies were designed so a "loss is disguised as a win", and the bells and whistles associated with the machines fired up the dopermines, the chemical messengers in the brain often linked with addiction.

However, general manager of the Cherry Street Sports Club in Ballina, Tere Sheehan, argued in his deputation that Rev Costello was comparing "an illegal product to a legal product."

He said the poker machines were heavily regulated and the club industry had a series of harm minimisation strategies.

He said the council's move probably wouldn't do a great deal within its aim of minimising the harm of poker machines.

"I don't think there is anything more Liquor and Gaming can do," he said.

The issue came to council following a proposal in January to offer a reduced lease to a venue in Lennox Head if it reduced the number of poker machines.

As at December 3 last year, there were 564 poker machines in venues in the shire which in about six months made a combined profit of $13.8m.

Cr Nathan Willis said the move by council to write to the State Government was not about targeting clubs or gamblers, but was about issues of non-compliance.

Reference was made during debate of an allegation of a local pub offering free beer to gamblers to keep them playing the pokies.

Cr Eoin Johnston said council often writes to government departments over compliance issues.

"I can't see how this (motion) would do any harm," he said, noting that he supported clubs.

Cr Phil Meehan countered the facts presented by Rev Costello, who claimed NSW had 10 per cent of the world's poker machines.

He during the debate googled Australian Productivity Commission data which reported Australia as having 2.6 per cent of the world's gaming machines.

He said the motion was "an attack and having a go at out club industry".

"I am not going to support a motion that has a go at our licensed clubs," he said.

But he did say a "major problem" was the introduction of pokies into hotels.

Cr Ben Smith argued against the motion, saying it was an "overreach".

"The (NSW) legislation says we shouldn't be involved in this issue," he said.

He said poker machines were becoming "less of a core part of that (club) business model".

"Younger generations are less likely to use gaming machines; they'll be going online," he said.

The Mayor, Cr David Wright, while supporting the motion also spoke of the great contribution clubs in particular make to the community.



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