Campbelltown punters turnover $1.7 billion a year

Poker machines are the main gaming in clubs, pubs and hotels.
Poker machines are the main gaming in clubs, pubs and hotels.

$1.763 billion.

It’s a large figure that has stunned local MPs.

But it’s also a figure that one of Campbelltown’s club bosses has stressed, needs to be put in perspective.

The 2014/2015 annual Liquor and Gaming NSW report showed the 1863 gaming machines in clubs and hotels in the Campbelltown LGA turned over $1.763 billion during that financial year.

The amount was only surpassed by eight other LGAs in the entire state with Fairfield the highest ($7.6 billion).

The figure did not just include money put into the machines, but also bets made using credits won.

Campbelltown Catholic Club chief executive Michael Lavorato said only a small portion – about 7 per cent ($130 million) – was actually net profit for the clubs and hotels, and other factors also had to be deducted from the amount.

“The $1.7 billion is very misleading and we’ve been battling with government about why they use that number,” he said.

“That doesn’t include the cost of doing business like community support, employment and taxes – about 40 per cent of which goes to the state government.”

Mr Lavorato said club and hotels all worked together to assist problem gamblers or those at risk of problem gambling.

“It is a legitimate recreational activity that the majority of people enjoy without problems,” he said.

“But we work to identify people who have problems with gambling.

“There are strategies in place like multi-venue exclusions, so people can voluntarily exclude themselves from venues.”

There are also clocks in gaming so punters don’t “lose sense of time” and gambling help line numbers on machines.

Local MPs said the figure was concerning with Macarthur MP Dr Michael Freelander saying the $1.763 figure “made him uncomfortable”.

“I’m flawed – I thought it would have been about $100 million or $150 million,” he said.

“That money could have been spent on families, local businesses and job.

“It’s a sign that there are a lot of problem gamblers in the area.”

Macquarie Fields MP Anoulack Chanthivong said it was important to remember not everyone who played the machines was a problem gambler.

Though he was still astounded at the figure.

“Campbelltown Council’s budget is about $130 million or $140 million a year,” he said.

“So that’s about 13 or 14 years of council budgets.

“Nobody takes umbrage if you put in a few dollars and have a flutter, and not everyone that puts in a few dollars has a problem.

“But if you do the maths there is a section in the community that have a gambling problem.”

The first word that came to Campbelltown MP Greg Warren’s mind was “horrifying”.

“That’s a horrifying amount and speaks volumes of what clearly is a gambling problem (among the community),” he said.

“I’ve got nothing against punters and not everyone has a gambling problem.

“Good luck to the (casual) punters but in that figure there are people who have lost a lot of money.”

Poker machines are the main gaming in clubs, pubs and hotels.

Poker machines are the main gaming in clubs, pubs and hotels.

A Liquor and Gaming NSW spokesman said LGAs were categorised into three bands – determined by factors including gaming machine density and expenditure, and socio-economic disadvantage of the area.

Venues in band three LGAs – including Campbelltown – that wanted to increase their amount of machines are subject to more stringent criteria than those in band one or band two areas.

While there is a cap on the number of machines statewide, there is no cap on LGAs.

The number of machines pubs and hotels can have is capped at 30 though there is no maximum amount for clubs.

The Liquor and Gaming NSW spokesman also said there were minimum standards each machine had to adhere to as well.

“In NSW, gaming machines are required to return at least 85 per cent over the playing out of their full course of combinations, with the average return of all gaming machines over this period being about 90 per cent,” he said.

“However, the return during a single playing session varies - a player may win more than they put into a machine or they may lose more than 15 per cent.”