Thursday, June 17, 2021

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Home Issue 11 Alice has more poker machines than most

Alice has more poker machines than most

By OSCAR PERRI

The Northern Territory has more than twice the number of poker machines per person than Victoria, and the figure is nearly as high for SA, as the Lasseters Casino in Alice Springs moves into new hands.

For NT venues like clubs and pubs to get a license or more machines, they have to submit a community impact analysis with their application. This does not apply to casinos in the NT.

When the local gaming house was built in 1981, the community was told there would be no poker machines and Australia’s first mainland casino would be focusing on high roller gambling.

There is much anecdotal evidence now that a disproportionate number of gamblers playing pokies in the Alice casino are Aboriginal people.

This can be verified by a stroll through the chain of gambling rooms in Lasseters: Late this afternoon half the gamblers were Aboriginal who make up just 20% of the town’s population.

None of the crowd – black or white – gave the outward impression of being high rollers.

Casinos, which work under a different license to clubs and pubs, do not need to apply for an increase in number of pokies, so long as they fit within the gaming area, as with other states and territories.

Since the casino last changed hands, 132 new pokies machines have been installed, taking the number to 320 “electronic gaming machines”.

Quilter Assets announced last week that after 24 years of ownership they have agreed to sell the casino to Sydney based company Iris Capital for $105m. Since the sale, Lasseters have seen a 70% increase in share price.

The new owner has dozens of pubs and hotels in New South Wales, as well as recently taking over the Ibis hotel chain in Australia.

Today in the NT there is one poker machine for every 94 people. The only other state or territory with a higher rate than this is NSW with a machine per 88 people.

The rates for other states are 228 for Victoria, 150 for Tasmania, 135 for South Australia and 111 for Queensland and the ACT.

Western Australia does not allow pokies anywhere except in the Crown Casino in Perth, resulting in just one machine for every 1069 people in the state.

Since 2019, as a measure to address gambling related harm the Northern Territory Government has reduced the cap on the number of poker machines in hotels and clubs by 35 machines, to 1699. This does not apply to casinos.

The Darwin casino has more than 600 pokies, according to its website. Here, too, the figures are pointing to excessive gambling in the Alice: Darwin has five times the population of Alice but its casino has less than twice the number of pokies.

A Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT) spokesperson told the News that Licensing NT have compliance officers throughout the NT who regularly complete compliance checks on liquor, tobacco, conduct of gaming, gaming equipment and responsible gambling.

The compliance officers provide licensees with advice about their licence conditions obligations, as well as conduct compliance checks.

DITT say they have never received gambling related complaints about Lasseters.

PHOTO: An image from an unauthorised news film shot in the Lasseters Casino 10 years ago.

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