Pokies losses pile up post lockdown

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
Pokies losses pile up post lockdown

The Australian COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 closed many businesses, including gambling venues, flatlining gambling losses from April through October.

Gambling News reports that while this proved beneficial for some gamblers who decided to quit, others returned to the activity as soon as the lockdown ended.

Although gambling losses in Australia are at an all-time high, some states are losing more to gambling than others.

Gamblers in Brimbank, a western suburb in Melbourne, hold the record for the highest daily losses from poker machines.

Gamblers from Brimbank lost A$48.168 for a single day in February.

According to a former gambler,  Ian, the lockdown helped people accumulate “large amounts of money”.

Consequently, he said, once the gambling venues reopened, people started coming back.

Furthermore, what’s worse is that those gamblers now have more money than ever before.

One of the factors that boost gambling losses in Victoria is the operating hours of the venues.

In Victoria, gambling venues operate 20 hours a day, which is the longest working hours out of any state in Australia.

However, the people who are suffering from gambling disorders undoubtedly boost the gambling losses as well.

Bet limits, EFTPOS caps and operating hours changes could form part of pokies reform

The government is not without a plan on how to deal with problem gambling.

Lawmakers are trying to reduce the opening hours of gambling revenues, which could decrease losses.

Legislation is also proposed that freezes the number of gambling machines in the state until 2042 and it is hoping to put a limit on cheque cashing services near gambling venues.

Additionally, lawmakers plan to reduce gambling losses by proposing a A$1 cap on bets, as well as A$500 EFTPOS daily withdrawal limit.

Brimbank mayor Ranka Rasic said more than $1.4 billion has been lost to gambling in the area in the past decade.

While Victoria looks to overhaul its gambling policy, the nearby Tasmanian government’s future gaming policy, released in March, proposed to cap the state’s gaming machines at 2350, creating individual licences for hotels and clubs.

It also allows for two “high-roller” casino licences, tenders the monitoring of the gaming industry and proposes to adjust how profits from the machines are distributed.

Since 2003, a portion of the profit made from the machines, as well as licensing fees, has gone to a Community Support Levy.

The levy pool funds and dispenses them across charitable organisations, aimed at gambling harm minimisation.

That portion has been four per cent of monthly gross profits.

Across Bass Strait, residents in a Tasmanian town are spending about $1 million a month in the city’s poker machines according to the latest data released by the state government.

Devonport’s pokies spend in March neared $1 million, at $991,002, second only to the cities of Launceston and Glenorchy, where residents put $1,484,906 and $1,699,436 through their machines respectively.

Tasmanians have spent $150 million in the state’s 97 poker machines since coronavirus restrictions eased last June.

That figure includes money spent on machines in the state’s two casinos and aboard the Spirit of Tasmania ferries.

Following the easing of restrictions, players flocked back to Devonport’s venues and spent $1,214,142 in the city’s gaming machines last July.

Their spending remained north of $1 million per month until November, when it dropped to $814,170 and it has been steadily climbing again in the months since.

None of the other municipalities in the North West have figures close to the amount spent in Devonport, though the city does also have the largest population in the region.

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