Poker machines in pubs and clubs in NSW have an exalted status under the law, beyond reproach from Councils and the community.
This issue came to my attention recently when legal advice was provided to the City in relation to our ongoing dispute over plans by South Sydney Leagues Club (SSLC) to install poker machines in their Redfern premises. Prior to a development application for the club being approved SSLC had submitted a written statement to Council that repeatedly claimed there would be no poker machines on premises. After the approval was granted the club changed its mind and decided that they would have poker machines after all. Our legal advice told us that under the NSW Gaming Machines Act 2001 SSLC could not be held to their statements and that it was unlawful for Councils to consider whether or not a premises will contain poker machines when making a decision on a development application.
I consider the exalted status this law grants to pokies to be completely reprehensible. Poker machines are a mindless form of gambling that require no skill, thought or social interaction to play and they are a magnet to those who struggle with gambling addiction. They have the potential to cause enormous social problems, particularly in disadvantaged areas like Redfern, and when you consider the fact that SSLC plans to set up their gaming room directly above a supermarket it is easy to see how worryingly likely it is that problem gamblers will be tempted to blow the family grocery budget on the slots.
When making decisions on development applications Councillors consider a wide range of environmental, economic and social factors. Why should the law not allow us to consider the potentially huge negative social impact of poker machines?
Once again, the answer comes down to political donations.
Over the last year the NSW Labor and Liberal parties have both recieved over $100 000 in donations from the gaming industry, hotels and clubs. It’s no wonder then that they resisted calls from former NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon for the unfair provisions of the Gaming Machines Act to be redressed.
Next week in Council I will be moving a motion that the Local Government Association take up this issue with the State Government but while that process is underway I will be doing all I can to keep up the pressure on South Sydney Leagues Club not to introduce the social poison that poker machines represent into the Redfern community.
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