Even when crowded and noisy, gaming areas in Australia’s clubs – where around $11bn a year is gambled and lost to poker machines – are lonely places

If you approach the Mount Pritchard Community Club on the 816 bus from Cabramatta, the first thing you see is the name in giant capitals splashed across a concrete tower: MOUNTIES. The club is a sprawling structure of glass and concrete, a blend of gentle curves and sharp edges bounded by car parks. It is so distinct from the surrounding suburb that it looks to have been dropped there by some architecturally careless god. I approach the row of membership scanners with digital displays monitored by a friendly uniformed woman. She welcomes me, processing my ID. I am not a member but am told I can become one for a $6 annual fee.

The first thing I notice is the smell: sweet and cloying, pumped in through the air-conditioning. The scent suggests concealment, an attempt to neutralise the unpleasant or distinctive, whether nicotine, sweat, alcohol, buffet food or cleaning fluid.

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