Aussies’ post-lockdown pokies binge

 

Australians have sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into poker machines since emerging from COVID-19 lockdowns, prompting renewed calls for licensed premises to do more to reduce rates of addiction.

Pubs and clubs across Queensland raked in almost $300 million in July alone, despite social distancing restrictions drastically reducing the number of patrons allowed inside at one time.

It was the sunshine state's biggest monthly spend on gaming machines in the past three years, and came as soon as the state government eased coronavirus measures.

Punters in NSW also gambled big when they emerged from lockdown, losing more than $571 million in June, up more than $40 million on the same period last year.

Tasmania's 520,000 residents expended a whopping $19 million on pokies per capita in July, $5 million more than was offloaded in February and equating to more than $612,000 a day.

Gamblers in South Australia drained their wallets of more than $73 million in the same month, compared to $62 million in 2019.

Victoria remains in lockdown but its more than six million people spent $235 million on poker machines in July 2019.

Gaming machines are only permitted in casinos in Western Australia.

The amount of money spent on poker machines has skyrocketed after COVID-19 lockdowns eased across the country. Picture: Liam Kidston
The amount of money spent on poker machines has skyrocketed after COVID-19 lockdowns eased across the country. Picture: Liam Kidston

 

Alliance for Gambling Reform advocate Anna Bardsley said the figures highlighted a concerning upward trend.

"The money that wasn't lost in those few months when lockdown was on instead went to small businesses, it went to supermarkets, it went to putting food on the table," she told the NCA NewsWire.

Ms Bardsley said while lockdown had helped some people break the cycle of addiction, it wasn't enough time for most.

"I know from my own experience it took longer than a few months to rewire my brain," she said.

"I will literally not give poker machines another dollar, but the recovery has been long and hard."

A Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation spokeswoman said it worked with industry and gaming help services in the lead-up to pubs and clubs reopening, to ensure those at heightened risk had support.

"This included the option for patrons who may want to continue their break from in-venue gambling to exclude from a venue, or multiple venues, through a gambling help service, without physically attending a venue," she said.

Anna Bardsley hasn’t gambled for more than 14 years. Picture: Penny Stephens
Anna Bardsley hasn’t gambled for more than 14 years. Picture: Penny Stephens

 

However, OLGR also confirmed the amount of money put through poker machines in July was 32 per cent higher than the same time last year, citing COVID-19 social and economic factors as contributors.

"OLGR continues to monitor these figures closely while engaging with industry and gambling help services to monitor any potential increase in gaming-related harm, to ensure suitable support options are available," the spokeswoman said.

Mr Bardsley said it was time for the issue to finally be taken seriously.

"Industry needs to start being responsible for the danger of the machines they have on the floor."

She called for warning signs to be installed, bets to be capped at $1 and changes to regulations that allow pubs and clubs to open 20 hours a day.

"Gaming rooms are the only part of a pub that's open at four o'clock in the morning," she said.

"Nothing good is happening then.

"It's appalling."

The Queensland Hotels Association chose not to comment.

Originally published as Aussies' post-lockdown pokies binge



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