New pokie laws will cripple clubs

NORTHERN Rivers club managers have come out swinging against the Federal Government's proposed poker machine law saying it could spell disaster for local clubs.

Ballina RSL general manager Bill Coulter believes the plan would cripple local clubs without addressing the gambling issue.

“In simple terms, to give a gambler a card to limit their spending is totally unrealistic, it's actually encouraging people to gamble, it's not helping the problem,” he said.

Mr Coulter believes that the government proposals will be less effective than Ballina RSL's current scheme which allows for input from concerned family members.

“Often a person with a gambling problem is reluctant to admit to it so sometimes a family member will intervene to help execute the process,” he said.

“All parties, including the person excluded, have to sign off on it (and it) actually prohibits a person identified as having a gambling problem from being in the venue at anytime.”

He said Ballina RSL did support a voluntary pre-commitment system but on the basis that it was introduced over the life of the machines so venues could spread the cost.

“The cost to us alone would be about $3 million to introduce that technology and research indicates that will correspond with a 40% decline in revenue,” he said.

“That means about a $4 million decline in revenue which is unsustainable even for us, and across the electorate the cost would be $16 million, plus a net loss of $9 million and about 100 jobs.”

While the government has exempted clubs with 15 machines or less from having to comply until 2018 – which it said amounts to three quarters of clubs in regional NSW – Mr Coulter said that of the 17 clubs in the Ballina electorate, only five clubs have 15 machines or less.

“This recommendation that 16 machines or more classifies a large club is absolutely ridiculous – why 16, why 18, why 20? – where's the basis for that argument?” he asked.

Casino RSM manager Phil Malon agreed fearing for his club's future.

“Last year we helped over 200 community and sporting groups and this would destroy that – not to mention the jobs of the 64 people who work at the club.

“You just have to look at Beef Week, it wouldn't be what it is without the Casino RSM.”

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