Pokie loophole dodges shutdown
CLUBS and hotels are already watering down new laws requiring a six-hour daily shutdown of poker machines, using a loophole allowing councils to vary operating hours.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that at least 14 Sydney clubs and hotels are seeking to reduce their longer mandatory six-hour closure time, due to start on Thursday of next week.
Last night, Campbelltown and Fairfield Councils were due to make final decisions on applications by at least 10 clubs and pubs to retain the 6am to 9am shutdown period on certain days.
Under Section 40 of the Gaming Machines Act 2001, councils have the authority to vary the closure time on weekends and public holidays.
A Fairfield Council report said the impact of the proposed six-hour pokie closure would be "significant" on some of the area's 43 clubs and pubs - causing job losses, reduced revenue and community contributions.
However, the three-hour shutdown consent is dependant on clubs and pubs achieving "best practice" in responsible gambling management, including problem gambling information strategies and counselling services.
The exemption must also be approved by the Liquor Administration Board once council consent is given.
Fairfield councillor Thang Ngo was expected to try to reverse his council's support for the reduction last night.
"Gambling is a major problem in our community and is tearing at our social fabric," he said yesterday.
In a report to Campbelltown Council, staff recommend that the council raises no objection to Wests Leagues Club, Campbelltown RSL Club, Club Hotel Campbelltown and Club Hotel Leumeah retaining their three-hour shutdowns on weekends and public holidays.
Last week, Holroyd Council granted 12-month approval for Guildford Leagues Club to reduce its gaming machine shutdown to three hours on weekends and public holidays subject to the club undertaking staff training in harm minimisation.
Wentworthville Leagues Club also had its application approved, excluding Anzac Day and Good Friday.
A council report said the clubs met all the requirements of the harm minimisation strategy and had demonstrated that there would be a "community benefit" from the proposed reduction.
"Neither applicant had any complaints in relation to the general good order of the premises in the neighbourhood made by the community, police, council, NCOSS (Council of Social Service of NSW)," the report said.
Waverley Council will advertise each application for a reduction in the shutdown period before a decision is made