NSW pokies reform won't solve issues of problem gambling in Wagga's suburbs Mount Austin, Glenfield Park and Tolland

MAP IT OUT: Suburbs such as Mount Austin, Tolland and Glenfield Park fall outside of the capped zone.
MAP IT OUT: Suburbs such as Mount Austin, Tolland and Glenfield Park fall outside of the capped zone.

Questions have been raised over the state government’s new plan to cap the number of poker machines in disadvantaged areas after some of Wagga’s lower socio-economic suburbs were left outside the exclusion zone.

Suburbs such as Mount Austin, Tolland and Glenfield Park were not included in the capped area, meaning there is a possibility for more machines to be installed in the future. This zone already has 212 machines across three premises.

​Brad Addison, the Regional manager for Anglicare Riverina, has raised concerns over whether this is merely a Band-Aid solution to the issues, as those who find it difficult to access gambling machines can simply travel elsewhere. 

“I don’t know what tool the state government have used to class different areas as disadvantaged, but that does surprise me that some areas fall outside this,” he said.

Mr Addison said his “fear” is the reform won’t prevent people from finding another option. 

“We have to understand the nature of problem gambling and poker machine addiction, if people are able to travel just a few kilometres to another location they will to fill that need,” he said. 

Mr Addison also cautioned against labeling poker machine addiction and gambling problems as unique to disadvantaged or low socio-economic areas.

“There are much broader reforms we should be looking at than just capping the numbers in certain areas,” he said. 

Mr Addison proposed broader approaches such as maximum bets for a machine per spin would have an effect on problem gambling. 

In a poll conducted by The Daily Advertiser some 80 per cent of respondents said they did not agree that capping pokies in certain areas will have an affect on problem gambling. In reaching the decision for the new zones Liquor and Gaming NSW largely based the result on the socio-economic indexes for the area. It also considered the gaming machine expenditure and number of gaming machines per capita. 

A spokesman for the Minister for Racing, Paul Toole, said they were confident in the reform’s abilities to affect problem gambling. 

“These bandings will prevent extra gaming machines in areas with the highest risks of gambling harms,” the spokesperson said. 

“The suggestion that venues in non-capped areas will have increased gaming machine activity overlooks the fact that one of the key criteria for capped areas is high numbers of gaming machines.”

The Sportsmens Club Hotel and the Rules Club Wagga were both contacted for comment. If you or someone you know has a problem with gambling, call Wagga Family Support on 02 6921 6104.