Wagga punters have lost more than $20 million to pub and club poker machines in just six months, the latest data reveals.
Liquor and Gaming NSW's data states that across the Wagga local government area in the latter half of 2018, clubs made net profits on their machines of $9.29 million and hotels $11.01 million.
Compared to the same period in 2017, the community's loss increased by $1.67 million.
Kate da Costa, the NSW campaigner for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said successive governments have responded to the enormous harm that poker machines are having by protecting the industry.
"The basic line is that although the numbers of machines have fallen slightly, the net profit - which is the amount of money communities lose - has increased," she said. "It's being lost because people are betting higher amounts or gambling for longer." Dr da Costa said the state government won't put in better measures because it earns millions through poker machines.
"What they don't see is the greater cost to the community," she said. "The money they raise in taxes is not paying for the harm done."
Dr da Costa said more than 10 years ago, the Productivity Commission was alarmed at how the industry operated and recommended that a $1 maximum bet per button push should be enforced - at the moment it is $10.
"Whether it's Wagga or Sydney, no community can afford to lose the money and experience the harm," she said.
Dr da Costa said the Alliance for Gambling Reform wants governments to ban addictive features on machines, give councils power to be involved in the decision-making process and ban loyalty programs.
"Our main call to action, however, is to see gambling labelled a public health issue," she said.
"The machines are designed to make people addicted to them.
"If you put $10 in and you win only $2, losing $8, the machines make the same noises and flash the same lights as if you had made a profit."
Dr da Costa also encouraged communities to avoid saying problem gambling.
"There's no such thing as responsible gambling," she said.
Liquor and Gaming NSW's latest reports covered June 2018 to November 2018 for clubs and July 2018 to December 2018 for hotels.
Communities across NSW lost $2.02 billion at clubs and $1.32 billion at hotels.
The Wagga RSL ranked in the top 100 clubs in the state for net profit, coming in at 91 with 194 machines on the premises.
The Rules Club ranked 150 with 162 machines.
None of the region's hotels ranked in the top 100, with the Kooringal Hotel making the highest net profit in the area, coming in at 183 with 30 machines.
Compared to the same six-month period in 2017, across the state, the number of gaming machines in operation fell by 565 in clubs and by 184 in hotels.
However, the net profit increased by 0.5 per cent for clubs and 6.4 per cent for hotels.
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