Bushfire and virus to blame for Bega’s reduced pokies spend 

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Bushfire and virus to blame for Bega?s reduced pokies spend 

The expenditure on pokies in the Bega Valley has brought in $7.7 million, but this is millions less than the previous six months.

Bega District News reports the first part of this year was where the region saw the impacts of bushfires and the coronavirus restrictions, with the $7.7 million figure a huge drop compared to the second half of 2019, which saw net profits of $12.4 million.

The figures, from Liquor and Gaming NSW, are released as part of the latest data on gaming machines from across the state.

Data for hotels was collected from January 1 to June 30 and from December 1 to May 31 for clubs.

When it came to net profits, the Bega Valley’s clubs made about $6.3 million from pokies while hotels brought in about $1.4 million.

It is a clear decrease from the previous six months, when Bega Valley’s clubs made about $10.3 million from pokies while hotels brought in about $2.1 million with a combined government tax of $1.8 million.

The most recent data states across the region, 11 clubs have 551 gaming machines, while nine hotels have 87, equalling 638 machines in total.

This is similar to the previous six months, when 12 clubs had 550 machines and 10 hotels had 89, totalling 639 machines.

In a statement, Liquor and Gaming noted its latest figures showed “significant decreases in gaming machine profits” across the state, which had coincided with COVID-19 restrictions including a 10-week closure of all gaming venues from March to May.

The figures showed there was a total net profit decrease of 40.6 per cent, when compared to the previous six month period.

“Because of the impacts of the COVID restrictions, the NSW government allowed for a deferral of tax payments in the last instalment period,” Liquor and Gaming stated.

In an August media release, the Alliance for Gambling Reform’s chief advocate, the Reverend Tim Costello, said Australians lost $25 billion gambling last year, the highest rate of losses per head in the entire world.

“We can come out of this COVID-19 crisis with a real positive if we can significantly reduce gambling harm,” he said.

“That will not only save families and individuals from inordinate pain, including family violence, mental ill-health and homelessness, but it will provide billions of dollars to be spent in our economy at a time when we need it most.”

Pokies spend spikes despite COVID-19 restrictions

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into poker machines as Australians have emerged from COVID-19 enforced lockdowns.

News.com.au reported in September that pubs and clubs across Queensland raked in almost $300 million 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 New South Wales also spent 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.

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 said.

Ms Bardsley said while lockdown has helped some people break the cycle of addiction, it wasn’t enough 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.

However, OLGR confirmed the amount of money put through poker machines was 32 per cent higher than the same time last year.

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.

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