Pokie paradise: Wollongong No.7 on biggest loser list

Cash in now: Wollongong gamblers lost more than $143 million to poker machines last year. Wollongong club gamblers lost more than$143million on poker machines in the last financial year, takingthe city to 7thplace on the list of biggest losers, new figures show.

These losses were on machine turnover of $1.52 billion for the Wollongong local government area (LGA), across 38 clubs that have pokies –the most venues of any LGA in NSW.

In clear first place was Fairfield, the state’s most disadvantaged area.

Fairfield’s gamblers lost more than $442 million on poker machine turnover of $6.8 billion, the figures show.

Wollongong’s gambling losses were more dispersed, with 2614 poker machines –a figure second only to Fairfield’s 3357.

Each LGA that lost more than Wollongong was in western Sydney, except for Wyong at No. 6. In Wollongong $21 million was returned by clubs to the government in tax.

The loss figurermay actually be higher but statistics for losses are not kept –only outlay, profit and tax. They show only clubs not hotels.

The figures are kept by Liquor & Gaming NSW, part of the Department of Justice, but are not accessible. They are being made public now after Greens MLC Justin Field purchased them from the department. Mr Field called on the Government to release venue-by-venue statistics monthly.

“This information is vital for community debate and response to the extensive social and financial harm caused by poker machine addiction,” he said.

The Mercury asked Minister for Racing Paul Toole why the figures were not made public per venue, and for free, and whether gambling was a significant problem.

The minister’s spokesman did not answer the questions but stated there would be a “major study” into problem gambling conducted this year. This would focus on all forms of gambling.

“Liquor & Gaming NSW provides free yearly data on gaming machine numbers and turnover in each NSW local government area,” the spokesman said.“This is published in the annual report of the NSW Department of Justice.

“The NSW Government has committed $23 million to problem gaming initiatives this year, including face-to-face counselling at more than 200 locations across NSW.”

The figures showed more that $777 million in tax was returned to the government from poker machines during the financial year.

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