Camden at risk of becoming a disadvantaged area

Risky business: The NSW Council of Social Services is concerned about the number of pokies in Camden. Picture: Supplied.
Risky business: The NSW Council of Social Services is concerned about the number of pokies in Camden. Picture: Supplied.

Camden is at risk of becoming a disadvantaged community due to the high number of poker machines in the area.

That’s what the NSW Council of Social Services believes.

The organisation has railed against proposals for additional pokies at local clubs and pubs.

Acting chief executive Melanie Fernandez said Camden would experience a spike in poverty, crime and suicide rates if additional poker machines arrived.

“What we know is that any time there is a high concentration of electronic gaming machines in a region, particularly growing communities like Camden, we see more disadvantage,” she said.

“There is a flow-on effect and the negative impacts include domestic violence, mental health issues, crime and suicide.

“The higher the concentration of electronic gaming machines in an area, the more people are at risk.”

There are currently 514 poker machines in the Camden local government area.

Club Marconi recently applied for 150 poker machines in its new Narellan location.

“The area is at saturation point right now,” Ms Fernandez said.

“We’d like to see the proposal refused and the total number of machines [in Camden] now looked at.”

The South West Sydney Local Health District lists Camden’s neighbours, Liverpool and Campbelltown, among the ten most disadvantaged areas in Sydney.

Campbelltown and Liverpool have 3500 electronic gaming machines between them.

“It’s definitely a concern for Camden,” Ms Fernandez said.

“There are pockets of disadvantage already in the area at Narellan, Catherine Field, Camden, Leppington and Rossmore.

“I think there is a lack of education around the broad reach of the impacts of gaming machines and who is actually using them.

“They tap into that vulnerable population – about 40 per cent of electronic gaming machine revenue comes from problem gamblers.” 

One Camden councillor thinks something should be done about the number of poker machines before it’s too late.

Councillor Eva Campbell raised a number of motions at last night’s council meeting to address the issue of gambling addiction in the region.

One of the proposals included a gambling harm prevention policy.

“We need to integrate a policy now to combat the socioeconomic harm of electronic gaming machines,” she said.

“This isn’t just about problem gamblers – there are a number of people harmed by this, not just the gamblers.

“We are headed for problems.”

Fairfield City Council developed a policy last year to oppose any additional poker machines in the area.

Fairfield is home to almost 4000 poker machines and is ranked as Sydney’s most disadvantaged area.

“We should look at Fairfield’s policy and the policies in other areas,” Cr Campbell said.

“A substantial part of the disadvantage in Fairfield is linked to electronic gaming machines.

“We have an application from Club Marconi, one of Fairfield’s biggest clubs, and soon we will have one from Sporties.”