How Aussies are losing more on the pokies during COVID-19 crisis despite only half of them being switched on – and experts say JobSeeker is to blame
- Australians lost $571 million on poker machines in June despite restrictions
- In the same month last year Australian lost $530 million on poker machines
- Experts blame boredom and government handouts for the spike in losses
Startling figures reveal Australians are spending more on poker machines now than before the coronavirus pandemic.
Liquor and Gaming NSW data shows punters lost more than $571 million in July, up from $530 million in June, 2019, despite every second machine being switched off due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.
Sydney University Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic co-director, Associate Professor Sally Gainsbury told The Daily Telegraph anxiety, boredom and government handouts were all causes for the spike in pokies spending.
New figures show Australians lost more than $571 million on poker machines in June, compared to less than $530 million in June of 2019 despite half the machines being available due to COVID-19 restrictions (man pictured on a poker machine)
‘We have more money in our pockets as we are going out less, and some people who were on relatively low incomes have more money in their pockets because of JobSeeker,’ she said.
Professor Gainsbury said punters, including problem gamblers, rushed back to licensed venues after they reopened at a limited capacity on June 1.
‘We did have people saying: “Great, I have it under control, I don’t need to come to treatment” only, when venues reopened, they reverted back to gambling, potentially in a higher way,’ she said.
Professor Gainsbury told Daily Mail Australia many people were using poker machines as a way to cope with the stress of the pandemic.
‘It is important that venues and staff pay close attention to customers and look for indicators of risk and have conversations to check in regularly,’ she said.
‘Efforts for social distancing need to be balanced with obligations to ensure customers are gambling at affordable levels.’
Licensed venues in NSW were the first in Australia to switch their poker machines back on after the coronavirus shutdown.
From March 23 to June 1 NSW clubs suffered an 87 per cent decline in monthly revenue, equating to a collective net loss of $212 million each month.
Centre clinical psychologist Dr Christopher Hunt said the 7.9 percent increase in net profit for June seemed to stem from people missing being able to gamble.
‘It was almost as if there was this pent-up desire to gamble,’ he said.
Experts said a combination of boredom, anxiety and government handouts like JobSeeker and JobKeeper all contributed to the sharp rise in poker machine spending (a man pictured on a poker machine)