Imagine a local council area where households lost, on average, $8,865.60 each on the pokies a year. Okay, you can stop imagining now. There is no such fantasy. That council is Murray River in the south-west of NSW.

On this astonishing figure of almost $9,000 in losses per household, $1,661.20 was paid in pokies taxes – by each household on average – to the NSW Government.

The NSW Government and the secretive clubs lobby ClubNSW would have us believe there is no great problem with poker machines. Aussies love a flutter; clubs give back to the community, that’s the mantra. Yes, they do give back to the community – a tiny fraction of what they take out, and surely not enough to compensate for the social and economic devastation caused by the scourge of problem gambling.

Holy Dooley, Catholic clubs make a killing from poker machines

It should be stressed that Murray River is an outlier in the data. We have cherry-picked the worst case.
There are historical reasons why the councils on the edge of the NSW border with Victoria have stunningly high pokies turnover.

Victoria has tighter gambling laws and the NSW clubs close to the border have lured gamblers from the southern states for decades. South Australians too, flocked to the area for years on river boat cruises to play the pokies. That was until the 1990s when South Australia embraced the pokies.

There is also ample anecdotal evidence that the fruit export businesses in the area have been washing cash through the poker machines. Still, the numbers speak for themselves, in every local government area, almost every town and almost every big club.

North coast resident John Davies touched base the other day with the observation that, at Evans Head on the NSW North Coast, some “$871 went through the pokies at the two clubs for every man, woman and child in the town.

“All I did was take the figures for poker machine profits in the annual reports for the Evans Head Bowling Club and Evans Head Ex-Services Club and divide by the census population for that year.”

So it was that we ran the numbers for every local government area in the state – the worst state for pokies in the biggest punting country in the world – and Murray River came out on top.

The results of this research will be published shortly, research which shows the depth of penetration of these predatory taxing machines in each Local Government Area in NSW – and the attending patterns of wealth and education.

Suffice to say that the numbers, for many parts of NSW are mind-boggling, though not quite as mind-boggling as these from Murray River:

  • Population 11,680
  • Households 5,869
  • Median age 49
  • Bachelor degree or above 10.1 per cent
  • Median weekly household income $1,061
  • Net profit $52m
  • Pokies tax $9.7 million
  • Machine numbers 960
  • Premises 11
  • Profit per machine $52,200
  • Tax per machine $10,156
  • Machines per 100 households 16.4
  • Tax per household $1,661
  • Loss per household $8,865.60.

Dee Why RSL: pokies, prodigious profits and personal tragedy