The red carpet has been rolled out for clubs and pubs wanting to put more poker machines in Campbelltown, much to the bemusement of local MPs.
The state government recently announced the “biggest” poker machine reforms “in a decade” which would see caps placed on the number of machines allowed in poker machine hotspots.
Areas branded band three (high risk) would be “no-go zones for additional machines”, Racing Minister Paul O’Toole said.
It would be a free-for-all for areas given band ones (low risk) while there was scope for more machines in band two areas (medium risk), like Campbelltown.
Macarthur MP Dr Michael Freelander couldn’t understand why Campbelltown was not considered a band three area.
“We are a disadvantaged community that already has plenty of poker machines and a number of problem gamblers,” he said.
Dr Freelander (Labor) said “a huge amount” of money was turned over on machines in Campbelltown each year.
Campbelltown MP Greg Warren (Labor) was equally adamant the area was already at its capacity regarding machine numbers.
“I’ve always been concerned about the sociological effects of poker machines. They are an addiction for many people and cause severe financial implications for themselves and their families,” he said.
“But I’m also of the view that if people want to play poker machines, they should be allowed to.
“Though a proposal to put more machines in Campbelltown is something I struggle to accept. It’s not like we have a shortage here – there are a lot.”
The majority of neighbouring Camden was also categorised a band one.
Dr Freelander said he feared Camden would become “another Fairfield” if the poker machine industry was allowed to expand.
Fairfield recorded the largest turnover of any area in 2014/2015.
“Introducing more poker machines is anti-families and anti-young people,” he said.
“They (the state government) are not acting in the best interests of the people of Macarthur.
“Both sides of politics have been addicted to gaming income. We need to draw a line in the sand.”
NSW Council of Social Services acting chief executive Melanie Fernandez recently told the Advertiser that Camden was at risk of becoming a disadvantaged community due to the high number of poker machines already in the area.
“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.”
Liquor and Gaming NSW is currently assessing applications from two future Camden venues – one in Narellan and one in Gregory Hills – for the installation of 150 gaming machines each.