Poorest area puts twice as much into pokies
By Geesche Jacobsen, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 June 2003
People in Sydney's most disadvantaged area spend nearly $2000 a year on poker machines - more than twice the state average.
Fairfield, in the city's south west, ranks last of all metropolitan regions on a socio-economic index, but residents gambled more than $251 million a year, according to figures obtained by the Herald.
The area has 3885 poker machines - one for every 34 adult residents - and pubs make an average of $126,206 profit per machine each year.
The figures - revealed for the first time since the Government stopped releasing gaming expenditure figures free of charge - are contained in an application by Mounties Bowling Club to operate an extra 37 poker machines.
Fairfield councillor Thang Ngo said locals who could least afford to gamble were spending twice the state average on poker machines.
Having capped the number of poker machines in NSW, the Government should introduce regional caps which considered the size of the population and their socio-economic status, Cr Ngo said.
Locals gambled a "frightening" amount, he said. "Residents spend 6.4 per cent of gross average income on pokies compared to the NSW average of 2.6 per cent."
The Social Impact Assessment submitted to the Liquor Administration Board says the Fairfield local government area has about 9200 problem gamblers.
The club wants to transfer 37 machines from nearby Mount Pritchard & District Community Club (Mounties).
Mounties, one of the top 10 clubs, must reduce its pokie numbers from 558 to 502 under Government rules.
Nineteen machine licences will be forfeited in the transfer, slightly reducing the overall number of machines in Fairfield.
But the director of the NSW Council of Social Service, Gary Moore, said such a minor reduction in machine numbers "really does nothing at all" to help problem gambling.
The Gaming Minister, Grant McBride, said the Government had a rigorous Social Impact Assessment process to deal with such transfers.
"We have a process in place where local communities can take their concerns directly to the Liquor Administration Board and everyone has the chance, including councillors, to have their say."
According to the 1996 socio-economic index score quoted in the report, Fairfield ranks lowest of all Sydney metropolitan areas by income, education and unemployment. Problem gamblers are often non-English speakers, low income earners, unemployed and single, the Productivity Commission found.
The area has a high proportion of migrants and 8 per cent unemployment. Residents earned a median wage of only $282 a week in 2001 but spent on average $36.65 a week on poker machines.