Clubs and hotels in the Hunter are making $1.1 million in profits every day from people playing gambling machines, the latest data from Liquor and Gaming NSW reveals.
While the number of gambling machines and the number of hotels and clubs with gambling machines has declined since 2017 overall, profits from the first half of 2019 in the Hunter have exceeded those of the same period in 2017 by $15.5 million.
Hotels are largely responsible for the eight per cent increase, with pubs in Newcastle, Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie, Cessnock and Maitland making more money with similar numbers of machines overall.
Clubs in Lake Macquarie also made almost $2 million more in the same period with 84 fewer machines and two less venues.
In total, venues in the region have made $202.2 million from gambling machines in the past six months. Clubs made more than two-thirds of that, $135.4 million. Hotels made $66.8 million.
Wests New Lambton was the club that made the most from gambling machines in the Hunter, ranking 12th overall for its profits out of 1080 clubs in the state. It operates 542 machines.
Scone RSL was the club that made the most profits per gambling machine in the region, of which it has 37.
Winners Circle Wallsend was the hotel in the region that made the most profit from its gambling machines and the most profit per machine. The pub has 20.
Newcastle was the local government area where the most profit was made from gambling machines in clubs and hotels per capita in the last six months, followed by Port Stephens, Muswellbrook, Lake Macquarie, Cessnock, Maitland, Upper Hunter and then Singleton and Dungog, whose figures have been combined.
Wesley Mission chief executive officer Reverend Keith V Garner said the charity was seeing an increasing demand for its gambling counsellors in the Hunter and Great Lakes regions.
"We are particularly seeing an escalation in the number of people whose lives are being impacted by online gambling," Rev Garner said.
He said from Wesley Mission's experience the group at most risk of developing gambling problems were those who had experienced trauma "where gambling becomes and outlet for overwhelming emotions".
"Government statistics show that Australians lose about $24 billion a year on gambling, which is more per-capita than any other country," he said.
"The impact of poker machines remains prevalent in the community, and access to the means of gambling such as these increases the opportunity to gamble."
A spokesperson for ClubsNSW said poker machine profit at clubs in the region had only increased by 0.7 per cent in the past six months compared to the same period last year.
"Not-for-profit clubs make significant contributions to a range of worthy causes, including charitable, community and sporting organisations through the ClubGRANTS scheme. Clubs in the Newcastle-Hunter region collectively donated $4.5 million through ClubGRANTS in the past 12 months, supporting organisations such as the Salvation Army, the John Hunter Children's Hospital and the Mark Hughes Foundation," he said.
"For the 1 per cent of the adult population who do have a problem with gambling, ClubsNSW has developed the ClubSAFE program, which offers a 24-hour counselling service, a chaplaincy program and the multi-venue self-exclusion scheme."
He said ClubsNSW supports members looking to diversify their income streams.
"Some local examples include the Alec Rice Medical Centre, established by Toronto Diggers due to a shortage of GPs in the local area, and the West Group's ownership of the beloved Newcastle Knights," he said.
Gambling Help NSW 1800 858 858
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