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Australia Balancing Gambling Profits Against Social Problems

27 January 2003

AUSTRALIA – As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald: "About 350 clubs and pubs have applied for permission to install about 2300 extra poker machines in their venues in a process that could see machines move from richer to poorer suburbs.

"The applications are the first under new rules requiring the applicants to weigh up the adverse social impact against economic benefits of their plans.

"These social impact assessments reveal information about the gambling spending in the suburbs concerned, for the first time since the Government stopped making the data cheaply available more than two years ago.

"The data shows gamblers in poorer council areas, such as Auburn and Burwood, spend up to $1700 (US$1002) per adult per year - or about four times as much on the pokies as those in the richer ones such as Willoughby, Hornsby and Baulkham Hills.

"…A spokesman for the Gaming Minister, Richard Face, said approval would be `very hard to get'.

"If approved, the applicant must buy licences to operate the pokies from an existing operator, creating the opportunity for machines to be shifted from less profitable richer suburbs to poorer ones.

"…According to the assessments, the proposals to move the machines would boost gambling spending in the new location and could increase problem gambling.

"The director of the NSW Council for Social Service, Alan Kirkland, said it was very difficult to balance the impact of problem gambling against the broader community benefits…"

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