NSW Crackdown on Pokies Loophole
By Andrew Starke
The Keneally Government has today (Jan 22) moved to stop hotels flouting strict poker machine laws that limit the number of machines they are allowed to have.
Gaming and Racing Minister, Kevin Greene, said new regulations mean hotels will not be able to circumvent the system which assesses the impact of poker machine increases on the local community to gain more licenses.
“The NSW Government is acting to close a loophole that’s been exploited by a small number of hotels trying to get around laws restricting machine numbers,” he said.
“Our laws restrict poker machine increases in high-density gaming areas to make it hard for venues in high-density areas to gain approval for more poker machines. Part of this process involves a Local Impact Assessment (LIA) to give the local community a say about the application in those high-density regions.”
Greene contends that up to eight hotels have circumvented this LIA process by trading machine permits between hotels in high density areas and sometimes back again, each time retaining the increased machine threshold.
“In one case a hotel in a high-density gaming area transferred poker machine permits to another local hotel and then back to the original within 24 hours, resulting in thresholds of both hotels increasing without the LIA test,” he said.
Greene said actions by these hotels are clearly a cynical manipulation of laws put in place to restrict exactly these types of unchecked poker machine increases.
“The number of poker machines removed from pubs and clubs has nearly tripled since the NSW Government brought in new laws last year,” he said. “We started to wind back poker machine numbers in 2001 and we’re continuing now while also cutting red tape to make it easier for venues to trade machines and bring them out of the system.”
The Gaming Machine Amendment (Poker Machine Permit Transfers) Regulation 2010 stops hoteliers from dodging the LIA process, and changes will be made to the Gaming Machines Act 2001 to tighten the rules permanently.