Thu, May 2, 4:49am by Kevin Pitstock
The most recent state-wide gaming statistics show that Tasmania’s gamblers, long among the highest spenders at casinos, have shown a marked decline in spending since summer 2012. Land-based casinos in Hobart have shown the first decline in revenues in 16 years, since gaming machines were introduced to Tasmania in 1997.
It might be months before a consensus is reached on why the slowdown in recent months has occurred. Lawmakers and public policy spokesmen have given their opinions, though others remain unconvinced whether the facts support those statements. What is certain is communities throughout gaming-obsessed Tasmania are down recently.
Glenorchy has a reputation as the community which spends the most money on poker machines, with over $13 million spent on real money gambling over an eight-month period ranging from July 2012 to February 2013. One month last year showed a loss of about $1.9 million. Figures are released roughly 2 months after complete, so the latest figures (February) show losses of $1.4 million.
This might be dismissed as a bad month for the local gambling establishments, but it follows a trend throughout Tasmania, including Hobart. Launceston had the second most cash lost at $1.3, while Hobart had only $400,000 lost over the same time period. Tony Reidy, the chief executive of the Tasmanian Council of Social Service, claims the losses are proportionally higher among low-income gamblers. Mr Reidy stated, “Poker machines in Tasmania are concentrated in lower-income communities”.
How this bodes for the online pokies industry is still in doubt. Gambling statistics for the online gambling industry trail along slower than land-based casino numbers, because of the sheer number of sites affiliated with gaming in Australia. Many of these companies are foreign, which makes tracking losses even more difficult.
If Australian MP for Denison Andrew Wilkie is current, the economic downturn has nothing to do with the decline in gambling losses. Wilkie suggests the downturn is tied to greater awareness of the dangers of problem gambling.
The Australian Parliament member says that gambling revenues normally spike during an economic downturn, as people look for escapes from their worries and concerns. Heightened awareness encourages pathological gamblers to seek help, instead of hiding their problems.
Others suggest Tasmania’s slumping pokies revenues have another explanation. People may be finding new ways to spend their gaming dollars. The natural place for such activity is the Internet. It might be that more people are going online to play, seeking out video poker machines in online casinos.
Another possibility is a one-month fluke. When speaking of a dip of $500,000 or roughly 25% of the money collected in previous months, it’s possible one or two high rollers could account for such dips.
Stories about real estate moguls who lose millions in 5 hours make one realize how much money a whale is worth to a casino. Even the woman who stole $7.8 million from her employer to gamble on online pokies was given double credit, because the casino operator considered her such a great client. One or two big spenders can throw any one month’s figures off, so it’s best to wait until another month’s statistics are released before speculating on the implications.
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