More gambling machines for Hunter

Old style poker machines may be joined by casino-style electronic blackjack and roulette with higher bet limits.CASINO-style games could be rolled out in more than 50 clubs across the Hunter, including in areas already dense with poker machines, after a state government decision to ease restrictions.

The move means up to 690 small clubs across NSW will be allowed for the first time to offer games such as electronic roulette and blackjack with a bet limit of up to $100 – 10 times that of poker machines.

But an analysis of eligible clubs shows many are in areas classified by authorities as at risk of gambling-related harm due to the high density of poker machines and spending on gambling and low socio-economic status.

Newcastle is one of these areas, classified as a band 3, meaning it has high poker machine density, high expenditure and low socio-economic status.

The Newcastle City Council area has 27 clubs which would be allowed to install the machines for the first time.

In the Lake Macquarie City Council area, 19 clubs will become eligible, while in the Cessnock local government area there are eight clubs to which the new rules will apply.

Lake Macquarie is categorised as band 1, with low machine density, expenditure and high socio-economic status, but Cessnock is in band 2.

This means it is has moderate poker machine density, moderate gaming expenditure and moderate socio-economic status.

The games – known as multi-terminal gaming machines – allow several players to compete at once against an electronic dealer.

Until recently, clubs with only a handful of poker machines have been prevented from installing the games by a rule stating they cannot account for more than 15 per cent of the total number of machines in a venue.

But changes passed by NSW Parliament to make good on an election deal with Clubs NSW removed the cap for clubs which have up to 33 poker machine entitlements. This allows them to install machines with up to a total of five seats, which must be swapped for poker machines.

The casino-style games are regarded as more profitable, but also potentially more dangerous to problem gamblers.

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