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Poker Machine Revenues at a Seven-Year Low in Victoria

Sat, Aug 3, 2:54am by Kevin Pitstock

Real Money Scratchies in Australia

According to a report released by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, poker machine revenues were at their lowest total last year since the 2005/06 financial year. AUD $2.49 billion were spent by Aussies on Victorian pokies, but that total is down $184 million from the previous years.

James Copsey, a spokesman for the Ministry for Liquor and Gaming Regulation, gave credit to the government’s expenditure of $150 million towards the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. Mr Copsey believes the foundation’s work trying to eradicate problem gambling is beginning to have an effect on the issue.

Victoria Government’s Revenues Drop

The MLGR spokesman said the government would see significant losses to its state budget, but Victoria’s elected representatives would be happy to lose revenues if it meant an end to problem gambling.

If government officials are correct, then laws which lower the maximum bet on pokies should be given credit for a decline in poker machine revenues. When those same laws eliminate ATM machines near the gambling operations, they help stem the flow of cash from players to gaming machines in casinos, clubs, and pubs.

Other Reasons for Declining Numbers

Others wonder if the drop in revenue has curtailed gambling addiction, or whether the decline is associated with a flagging economy and less disposable income being spent on poker machines by the 99% of gamblers who aren’t addicted to their hobby.

Forty percent of the gambling revenues collected in Australia are thought to come from problem gamblers, though they constitute only 1% of the gaming public. That leaves more than half of the revenue stream unaffected by the campaign against addictive gambling.

Possible Demographic Shift on Gambling

Reverend Tim Costello, the chairman of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, said, “The mood in the public about gambling has shifted.” Reverend Costello believes the decline in revenues has to do with the wider perception of gambling among the Australian public. If the clergyman is correct, then after years as the people who spends more money gambling per capita than any other nation, more Australians are starting to turn away from this form of entertainment.

No doubt exists that current public opinion is against the gambling industry. But as historian John Lukacs once pointed out, there’s a difference in public opinion and popular sentiment. Public opinion is what “polite society” says on the subject. Better put, public opinion is what’s said in the media, whether it’s on TV, in newspapers and magazines, on the movie screen, or on the Internet.

Australians and Popular Sentiment

Popular sentiment is what the mass of people in a country really think once all the talk is done. The difference between the two concepts is why pundits predict one thing going into an election and are often proven wrong on Election Day. Sometimes the public opinion and popular sentiment run parallel; other times they have little correspondence.

The fact is that billions of dollars are spent each year by Australians who want to gamble. Nine Network was said to have received “many” complaints from TV viewers about live betting odds during NRL broadcasts, but one Nine Network executive later mentioned they a couple of dozen letters.  In other words, something like one in a million people saw fit to lodge their complaints with the network.  Whatever the mood of the country is, plenty of people continue to enjoy a good gamble.

The decline in revenues is a good sign. The decline implies fewer problem gamblers are playing, but the numbers only reveal a decline which is a matter of degrees.

A surge of gambling was bound to happen after the activity was legalised years ago and so many more gaming machines were installed in subsequent years. But after a gambling boom in the early years of the 21st century, people should have expected a certain number Aussies decide they prefer other activities. It may be that the loss in revenues represents a certain segment of the Australian population which has moved on to other forms of entertainment, regardless of the buzz provided by experts, advocates, and concerned citizens.


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