Macarthur Community and Sporting Club poker machine application sparks debate

Picture: Arsineh Houspian
Picture: Arsineh Houspian

Prominent Macarthur voices have spoken out against a proposal to install 150 poker machines in a future Narellan club.

Macarthur MP Dr Michael Freelander has called for the Macarthur Community and Sporting Club’s application to be knocked back.

“It is my view that poker machines are a social evil that take advantage of the vulnerable,” Dr Freelander said in a statement.

“We already have enough gaming machines in the area and more should not be allowed.

“It is probably a forlorn hope to rely on the state government to intervene given their lack of provision of proper infrastructure in spite of allowing such rapid development.”

It is up to the Department of Industry – Liquor and Gaming to approve or reject the club’s application.

Camden councillors debated whether or not to write to the Department about the application at a council meeting last Tuesday.

Councillor Eva Campbell was strong in her opposition to a further 150 machines in Camden.

She said the Club Marconi-owned venue was preying on the Camden people.

“[Club Marconi wants to] milk the Camden community for as much money as we’ve got,” she said.

“We’re simply sitting ducks here when it comes to exploitation of our area. 

“It’s duck season and we don’t even know we’re in the firing line.”

Cr Campbell told the Advertiser the system which allowed the club to apply for 150 machines was a “loophole allowed by a government that claims to want to decrease poker machine numbers” and was not applicable to the Camden area.

“The Camden community does not want to be part of a race to the bottom while their council fails to recognise the need to oppose excessive gaming machine numbers and avoid their negative impacts,” she said.

Cr Campbell said Camden’s existing clubs and pubs provided residents with more than adequate access to gaming facilities, with in excess of 500 poker machines in the LGA.

Camden mayor Lara Symkowiak did not agree with Cr Campbell’s words at the council meeting.

She said poker machines were legal and it was not the council’s place to tell residents whether they could use them or not.

“I don’t believe it’s for council to be the moral police and tell residents how they can and cannot spend their money on legal practices,” Cr Symkowiak said.

“Most of the poker machine players in Camden gamble responsibly.”

Cr Symkowiak also noted that neighbouring Campbelltown had significantly more poker machines and poker machine revenue than Camden.

The council ultimately decided not to write to Liquor and Gaming.

Cr Campbell, however, feels it is time for the council to take a stand.

“It's way past the time to adopt a balanced view,” she said.

“As a community we need to look carefully at the economic impact and social destructiveness of gambling because too many individuals and families are suffering unacceptable consequences. When the negatives outweigh the benefits this is not a good position to leave unchallenged.”

A Club Marconi representative declined to comment on the debate while the application was still before Liquor and Gaming.

The club is legally allowed to apply for 150 gaming machines as Camden is classified as a ‘band one’ area, with a low number of gaming machines per capita and small gaming machine expenditure.

Fairfield LGA (where Club Marconi is based) is classified with the highest band three ranking, which means clubs are unable to apply for any new machines.

What do you think of poker machines in Macarthur? Comment below or send a letter to rdickins@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

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