Ground zero of gambling in Sydney

SYDNEY • In a city known for its large number of slot machines, the western Sydney district of Fairfield has become known as the ground zero of gambling.

The area, one of the city's most disadvantaged, has 38 slot machine venues with 3,836 machines, or 24.6 machines per 1,000 adults.

Earlier this month, the area took the unusual step of pleading with the New South Wales state government to prevent more machines coming in after it emerged that gamblers there spent A$8.3 billion (S$8.95 billion) gambling on machines last year - or some A$40,000 for every resident in the area.

"No public good can be achieved within communities with high levels of gambling, such as Fairfield, for any further development of the gaming industry or any additional increases in gaming revenue," the council said in a submission to the state government obtained by Fairfax Media.

A federal independent MP and anti-gambling crusader, Mr Nick Xenophon, called on the federal government to intervene, saying states had become reliant on gambling taxes - which he described as "blood money".

"You need to make the machines much less addictive," he told reporters on July 11.

"These are high-fiscal vacuum cleaners that really impoverish communities. These are the electronic locusts of the 21st century."

The state government said it was reviewing its scheme for controlling the number of machines in each area. It said areas were rated for gambling risk and that venues seeking extra machines in places deemed high-risk were forced to undertake more onerous community consultation.

Jonathan Pearlman

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 23, 2017, with the headline 'Ground zero of gambling in Sydney'. Print Edition | Subscribe