Profits from poker machines in the Shoalhaven are far greater than any other nearby local government area, with 23 venues pocketing more than $61 million in one year alone.
Data has revealed the community handed over two times more than those in Eurobodalla and Shellharbour. The data was purchased by NSW Greens MLC Justin Field who said the state had the “worst pokies problem in the country”.
There are 1383 gaming machines across 23 premises in the Shoalhaven, which is significantly more than neighboring electorates.
Six premises in Kiama shared a profit of close to $7 million from 224 gaming machines. In the Eurobodalla, 725 gaming machines in 11 premises made more than $30 million profit.
Six venues across Goulburn Mulwaree and Palerang electorates shared in more than $30 million profit from 364 pokies.
NSW communities lost $5.46 billion between 2015 and 2016. Mr Field said the machines are deceitful and designed to be highly addictive, and urged the state racing minister Paul Toole to “introduce regulations to control the losses”.
“Minister Toole should commit to implement genuine harm minimisation strategies like $1 bet limits and laws and policies that reduce the overall number of pokies in communities,” Mr Field said.
But a ClubsNSW spokesman said there was limited evidence to support the notion bet limits would reduce problem gambling and would cost them $1.7 billion to retrofit machines.
He denied there was an issue, citing the 0.8 per cent gambling prevalence rate in adults, which was low compared to the developed world.
“For most people, gambling would not be in the top 30 most pressing issues in the Shoalhaven. The amount spent is considerably lower than many other areas in New South Wales. It’s also worth noting that much of the Shoalhaven’s gambling activity would be from tourists,” the spokesman said.
“Clubs in the South Coast state electorate employ 728 people, pay $10 million in gaming tax and make a $16.7 million social contribution to the local community.”
It is a requirement for NSW clubs to contribute to community and sporting groups in their town. Clubs in the Shoalhaven donated $313,000 in 2016.