Unions say Minns government must slash pokie numbers in clubs, pubs

 SMH  - Alexandra Smith  March 1, 2024

The state’s powerful union movement has launched a new assault against poker machines, insisting the NSW Labor government dramatically cut the number of pokies by at least 25,000 over the next five years.

Unions NSW want the Minns government to dramatically reduce the number of pokies in the state.

NSW Labor has committed to bringing down the number of pokies across the state by increasing the forfeit rate to one poker machine for every two purchased. In the current legislation, the forfeiture rate is one to two or three.

However, the unions’ resolution is far more ambitious and calls for a moratorium on granting new poker machine licences in pubs and clubs, and when venues close or relocate, those licences would be cancelled and the machines removed from circulation.

The resolution also called for “the $1 billion tax subsidy for poker machines installed in registered clubs” to be used to compensate pubs and clubs for the removal of licences.

“Compensation should be minimal given the historical profits made from those machines,” the resolution said.

“Australians outspend the citizens of every other country on online gambling, with $95 billion turned over in poker machines in NSW pubs and clubs each year – equivalent to almost three times the NSW Health budget,” the paper said.

“Of the $25 billion Australians lose to gambling every year, poker machines account for $11.7 billion.”

Gambling reform advocate Tim Costello, who was highly critical of NSW Labor’s gambling policy ahead of last year’s election, said he had been talking to Unions NSW about gambling reform for about 18 months.

“The NSW government has already lowered the state’s cap on poker machine entitlements for pubs and clubs by more than 3000 through an amendment to the Gaming Machines Regulation.

“We have also committed to changing the gaming machine entitlement forfeiture scheme so that for every two entitlements traded, one will be forfeited. This will further reduce the number of poker machines allowed in NSW.”