Online gambling spend spike in September

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Online gambling spend spike in September

Online gambling spend in Australia skyrocketed in September, according to data published by two companies tracking consumer spending.

Gambling News reports that information collected by AlphaBeta and illion revealed that spending on gambling activities in Australia almost tripled during the latest lockdowns in New South Wales and Victoria.

The online gambling spend also surpassed levels seen during the lockdowns in 2020.

The average weekly spend on gambling in Australia increased from a base index of 100 per week pre-lockdown to 384.4 for the week ending September 19, according to a consumer spend tracker put together by both agencies.

This surpassed the peak registered during the lockdowns in 2020, which was 298.3, registered in November 2020.

Lack of entertainment options fuels online gambling

There was no breaking down the type of gambling or online gambling verticals, but illion CEO Simon Bligh confirmed in a commentary piece that the spike in gambling spend was most likely due to the closure of pubs, clubs, casinos and most other forms of entertainment in New South Wales and Victoria since June, leaving Austrlaians with nothing else to entertain with.

“There really isn’t anywhere else to blow your cash in Sydney and Melbourne if you want a quick entertainment hit,” Bligh said.

Among the latest victims of the health and safety measures enforced on Australians was Casino Canberra, which was shut for seven days.

Commenting on the consumer spend tracker, managing director of Accenture, the parent company of AlphaBeta, Andrew Charlton said that the data showed many people turned to online gambling, realising it was close to their pockets.

“It appears many people have been introduced to online gambling during lockdowns,” Charlton said.

“They’ve discovered there’s a poker machine in their pocket.

“Combine that with the boredom of being at home and extra money, maybe from government payments or extra savings and maybe this addictive technology gets away from us a bit.”

The data provided by the two companies requires careful consideration by governments and regulators to see whether current laws, which permit sports betting and lotteries, but outlaw online casino games and poker, adequately minimise gambling harm, the report said.

Gambling losses mount in NSW

In a report published in June, it was revealed that in New South Wales, punters lost more than $2.2 billion in the first four months of the year. 

Almost $600 million was collected by poker machines in April in New South Wales, up 12.58 per cent on April 2019, ahead of the first “digital wallet” program to be trialled at a venue in August.

Led by Aristocrat Gambling and Wests Newcastle, the 12-week trial will trigger cashless payments for electronic gaming machines, with built-in features like time and spending limits.

It is the first proposal received by the NSW government as it explores cashless gaming solutions to target problem gambling and money laundering in venues.

The latest figures from Liquor and Gaming NSW reveal poker machines in Canterbury Bankstown took in almost $48 million in profits in April, or more than $1.5 million a day.

In Fairfield, pokies collected more than $47 million.

Cumberland, Sydney and Blacktown councils were close behind, where profits in each area ranged from $96 million to $116 million.

Kate da Costa, the NSW spokeswoman for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said the figures reflected a “predictable rebound” in pokies use, one year after the pandemic began and one month after JobKeeper ended.

“We know gambling of any form, particularly in poker machines, is an activity people turn to when stressed,” she said.

“A digital payment system that has harm minimisation measures, like enforced breaks in play and spending limits puts friction into the system, which is shown to be effective.”

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