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Australia must establish a national gambling regulator -
New $11 billion annual poker machine losses show our ‘hidden epidemic’

5 Sept 2022

Australians lost more than $11.4 billion to poker machines in pubs and clubs across five states last year, according to the first comprehensive, national analysis of available loss figures which cements Australia as the world’s biggest losers to poker machines per person.

And the researchers warn that without the pandemic restrictions hotel and club gambling machine losses are likely to exceed $13 billion next year.

The new figures, compiled by the Gambling and Social Determinants Unit at Monash University also show that in the 30 years to 2019 (the latest available figures) poker machine losses in hotels and clubs in Australia amounted to $308.4 billion. Note that poker machines are not permitted in clubs and hotels in WA. Relevant data was not readily available for ACT or the NT.

The chief advocate of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Tim Costello, said the losses reveal the extent of the gambling crisis that is devastating families and communities across the country, a ‘hidden epidemic’ that demands a nationally co-ordinated and urgent government response. “The federal government must establish a national gambling harm regulator that can coordinate efforts to reduce the terrible toll gambling is wrecking on Australian society,” Rev Costello said.
“A regulator can bring the states together, it can progressively reduce the number of poker machines, it can fast-track harm minimisation measures such as digital wallets. At the moment there is no coordination and no will to act.”

Monash University Associate Professor, Charles Livingstone, said pandemic restrictions had reduced losses in NSW and Victoria by 17% or 1.6 billion.

“Previous trends are likely to resume after the easing of pandemic restrictions with hotel and club gambling machines total expenditure for 2022-23 likely to exceed $13 billion across Australia,” Professor Livingstone said

The annual loss of $11.4 billion in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania is the equivalent to a loss of $658 for every adult resident of those States.

Amongst people who use poker machines, average losses were $3,429 p.a. across the five states.

The analysis by Monash University also shows:

  • Nine of the ten local government areas (LGAs) with the biggest losses were in NSW

  • Brisbane was the LGA with the biggest losses in the country with annual losses of over $591 million ($591,221,598)

  • Yet on a per population basis Fairfield LGA has the highest loss of $2,519 per every adult in the LGA. The overall annual poker machine loss for this LGA was $432 million ($409.7 million))

  • Poker machine utilisation varies between states, but amongst those who use them average expenditure in the five states for 2021-22 was $3,429. Highest average expenditure per use was in NSW ($4,525) and lowest in SA ($2,790). Apart from NSW, average losses per user were close to $2,800 in the four other states.

  • Annual losses in NSW amounted to $5.4 billion, and losses in Victoria were $2.2 billion. These amounts were reduced because of pandemic restrictions, by an average 17%, or $1.6 billion in total compared to 2018-19.

  • Poker machine losses in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania increased between 2018-19 and 2021-22 by a total of $492 million.

Media contact: Martin Thomas – 0477 340 704

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