Sydney Venues Break Pokies Shutdown Laws

Several NSW venues have come under fire for violating a shutdown period enforced by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing. During a compulsory three-hour shutdown period, several pokies venues in Sydney, as well as one in Wollongong and one in Newcastle, were found to be operating illegally.

The venues in question were found to be permitting pokies betting during a strict no-gambling period and have subsequently been fined $38,500 and the licensees have been notified that court action could follow. Such shutdown periods were implemented ten years ago in an attempt to reduce the impact of pokies by forcing gamblers to take a mandatory break. This generally happens between 4am and 10am on a daily basis.

The violations were discovered during an audit of the pokies machines and footage from CCTV cameras confirmed that they had been in operation illegally during these hours. Hospitality Minister George Souris said that such shutdowns were vital for minimising damage from problem gambling and that every licensed venue should comply with the shutdown, along with any other harm-minimisation strategies put in place, otherwise they will face fines and prosecution.

One such club in Sydney called Mounties previously came under fire from the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority when it attempted to boost the number of pokies in operation from 60 to 621 and become a leading venue in the state, in exchange for the creation of a street university for disadvantaged youth. However this proposal was quickly shot down.

The club relied on pokies for the majority of its revenue, having garnered $78 million in 2012 from pokies alone, and an additional $7 million a year was projected from its new machines, which works out to around $135,000 a week. Of these profits, $3.3 million would have been used for this university plan, which would be run with the Ted Noffs Foundation. The university would have provided local youth with various educational support, as well as other fitness and arts facilities.

But the proposal was ultimately rejected by the ILGA due to the fact that the club was located in a socially and economically disadvantaged area and that with so many additional pokies in operation, it would do more harm to the community than good. The club would indeed earn more revenue but around 22% of these extra earnings would come from the pockets of problem gamblers and after much careful consideration of the positive and negative effects of this plan, the ILGA had to turn it down.

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