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It’s no secret that the cost of living has skyrocketed since the pandemic. According to recent reports, the average loss amongst Aussie players has grown by over 30% since before the pandemic. This sharp increase in losses is attributed to desperation due to the cost-of-living crisis.
Some staggering numbers were released last week regarding the amount of money lost playing pokies in Australia in 2023. Monash University’s gambling and social determinants unit has been crunching the numbers and found that losses have increased significantly since before the pandemic.
According to findings, players in New South Wales have lost around $22 million per day in pokies in the first half of 2023, or a total of $3.9 billion. For the 2023 financial year, NSW players lost approximately $8.7 billion to pokies. That’s a 23% increase from the $6.5 billion lost in 2018-19.
Queensland saw a sharper increase, with players losing 3.24 billion in FY22, an increase of 33%. Victoria has the smallest jump, with just a 12% increase. However, South Australia saw a 34% jump to $917 million.
Associate Professor Charles Livingston was unsurprised by the findings. He believes that “people gamble when they are desperate,” believing that the increase is caused by the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis. “Desperate people often turn to desperate measures, and some people unfortunately think they have an opportunity to win something.”
One interesting stat of note is the increased number of pokie machines in NSW. Last financial year, there were 648 machines added to the region. This brings the total number of machines to 87,298. While the increase was less than 1% of the total, it still was cause for concern for some.
Rev. Stu Cameron, chief executive for Wesley Mission, spoke on the increase, stating that “the overall number of machines has been trending downward in 2019, so this reversal is disturbing, particularly when the cap for pokie machines in NSW is 96,000.”
He explained that there are “260 fewer venues with pokie machines in NSW. This indicates there is a growing concentration of pokie machines in some local government areas.”
Research from Western Sydney University shows that the Central Coast is the loss leader in NSW. The area lost approximately $150 million in FY22, or around $5.7 million per week. Central Coast has about 4,200 pokie machines.
The NSW government has been scrutinised for not following through with its promise to enact cashless gambling. In June, critics accused the government of siding with gambling lobbyists after delaying cashless gambling trials.
Anti-gambling lobbyists are pressuring the government to act, particularly after a report in May that claims that two-thirds of those who gamble past midnight are problem gamblers. This data led Victoria to enact legislation to ban late-night gambling.
However, the growing losses and the pressure from the cost-of-living crisis could lead to accelerated pressure on the government. As Rev. Cameron states, “money lost by players instead should have helped families weather the cost-of-living crisis but instead has gone to propping up a harmful and predatory industry.
The pain of broken individuals and families and the harm caused to communities behind these numbers is immense. Losses of this scale underpin the urgency for sensible, proportionate and effective reform.”
If anything, the staggering increase in losses is another reminder that gambling should be viewed as entertainment only. Even pokies with the highest RTP are long-term losers. Players should never expect to reverse their financial situation by playing pokies. Instead, focus on other activities to save money or increase income that doesn’t involve the risk of loss.