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Calls for Australian national gambling harm regulator amid US$7.7bn pokies losses

The Chief Advocate at the Alliance for Gambling Reform has called for the federal government and the states to establish a national gambling harm regulator in Australia, amid new research that found Australians lost over AU$11.4bn (US$7.74bn) on poker machines in a single year.

pokies losses

Pokies losses did decline in Victoria and New South Wales by around 17% compared to pre-pandemic levels, mainly due to pandemic closures and restrictions, but they were higher in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania compared to 2018/19. In Victoria alone, gaming machine users lost over AU$2.2bn over the 2021/22 financial year, with the average Victorian user losing around AU$2,800.

The figures, compiled by the Gambling and Social Determinants Unit at Monash University, include poker machines at pubs and clubs, not at casinos.

Chief Advocate at the Alliance for Gambling Reform Tim Costello expects the losses to grow despite people facing cost-of-living pressure and declining real wages.

“It goes up under stress,” said Costello. “People literally either get some relief from sitting in the zone in front of the machine, or they have a belief: I’m stuffed anyway, I can’t pay the rent or the mortgage anyway, but the pokies are maybe a shot.”

Costello has called for the national gambling harm regulator to be established to set out the financial, social and health consequences of poker machine addiction in the country. Australia has 75% of the world’s pub and club pokies.

Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC), Victoria’s new gaming watchdog, recently warned that tougher laws on money laundering and problem gambling at Crown Melbourne could risk pushing pokie addicts and criminals to pubs and clubs.

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