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Poker News: January 3rd, 2009

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Copyright © The Australian

HEADLINE: NSW pubs raking in $1.1 billion from poker machines

The state's greediest pubs are raking in a staggering $1.1 billion from poker machines each year, with each machine in Western Sydney taking almost four times the annual average wage.

The revelations have prompted calls for access to pokies to be slashed and a reduction in the number of machines in lower socio-economic areas.

Documents reveal the $1.1 billion was collected by the top 500 hotels - more than two-thirds of the total pub poker machine revenue statewide, equating to a $200 loss by every adult, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The Australian Hotel Association defended the amount saying clubs had three times the number of machines of hotels.

The top 25 gaming pubs alone raked in just under $150 million in revenue, with all but two in Sydney's west or southwest.

The pubs took an average of $6 million each from the cap of 30 machines in the 12 months to September 2008 - $200,000 per machine.

The amount is almost four times the average yearly wage and more than three times the average pub poker machine yield of $64,000.

Gambling experts are now demanding the Government regulate the gaming hot spots in the same way they cracked down on problem drinking venues.

With the economic crisis set to get worse, it is predicted more and more people will try to gamble their way out of poverty and debt.

Salvation Army gambling rehabilitation head Gerard Byrne said there was no doubt western Sydney had more problem gamblers and both the addicts and their families were constantly seeking welfare assistance.

He said there needed to be increased restrictions on the hours gamblers could access poker machines and a tougher Government approach to problem areas, such as a reduction in machine numbers.

Mr Byrne said the greatest concern was with the for-profit hotel gaming sector rather than the technically non-profit clubs.

While clubs overall have more poker machines and reap more money from them, each machine is not as heavily used and they are not intended to make a profit for the business.

However Australian Hotels Association CEO Sally Fielke said this was because the clubs had three times as many machines to go around.

"The hotel industry participates in and is proactive in gambling harm prevention programs such as GameCare and other gambling counselling services to assist the less than 1 per cent of the population who have a problem with gambling,'' she said.

However Mr Byrne warned the tough economic times could increase problem gambling.

"We see gamblers try to supplement their income by getting that next big win to pull themselves out of the financial mire.''

Already pubs and clubs must shut down poker machines for six hours. However they can apply for an exemption to this and shut down for only three on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays Bonus

Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on January 3rd, 2009,25197,

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