Gavin Harper
by Gavin Harper
Table Of Contents
Gavin Harper
by Gavin Harper
new south wales record pokie loss

A new report reveals that Australians in New South Wales lost a record $8.1 billion AUD playing poker machines in 2023. Sydney's most impoverished communities were the hardest hit by these losses. According to an eye-opening study by Wesley Mission, the number of pokie machines increased by around 1,000 to 87,545. The anti-gambling firm noted a year-on-year increment of $29 million, translating to an additional $1,000 loss per person in NSW. 

Increasing Pokie Machine Losses in NSW

Studies on pokie machine losses have revealed a troubling upward trend, particularly in hotels. In 2023, losses on pokies in hotels reached $3.55 billion, up from $3.49 billion the previous year. Although hotels in New South Wales house only 25% of the state’s total poker machines, they account for 44% of all losses.

With 65,057 poker machines, NSW clubs saw Australians lose over $4.57 billion in 2023. This figure, however, represents a $35 million decrease from the losses sustained in 2022. The highest hotel and club losses were recorded in the poorest local government areas (LGAs), including Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield, Cumberland, Sydney, and Blacktown. Pokie machine losses increased steadily throughout the year, with the most significant spikes occurring in the fourth quarter.

Shifting Gambling Losses from Clubs to Hotels

Stakeholders have observed a shift in gambling losses from clubs to hotels, driven by several circumstances that warrant closer examination. Authorities should consider revisiting operating hours, as hotel patrons have sustained more losses than club consumers in the most affected Local Government Areas (LGAs). Additionally, there is a marked trend towards younger demographics engaging in gambling. Recent data reveals that individuals aged 18-34 gamble nearly twice as much as those aged 55-65 and prefer playing pokies for real money in pubs rather than clubs.

Jim Wackett, Wesley Mission's General Manager, highlighted the yearly increase in losses on pub pokie machines. He pointed out a troubling trend where young people, upon turning 18, engage in a ritual of playing poker machines. According to Wackett, young adults often visit a pub, buy a drink, and then play on the pokie machines. Wesley Mission has been actively campaigning for reforms over the past two years, aiming to mitigate the negative consequences of gambling. Through financial counseling and homelessness services, Wesley Mission strives to support individuals adversely affected by gambling

Potential Solutions for Gambling Harm Reduction

According to Rev. Stu Cameron, CEO of Wesley Mission, the latest data is a wake-up call for authorities to implement significant reforms. In a recent press release, Cameron stated, "While we wait for the outcome of the current pre-implementation testing of cashless gambling in NSW, there are a range of reforms the government can introduce this year that will have an immediate impact on reducing harm."

Cameron emphasized the importance of examining past statistics to make necessary progress in addressing gambling issues. He highlighted the government's awareness of the increased risk of gambling for patrons who play after midnight and suggested that the NSW government should consider banning poker machine gambling between midnight and 10 a.m.

"The enforcement of signage bans in New South Wales has significantly decreased harm. According to our Community Attitudes study from October 2023, 25% of customers who play on poker machines at least once a month reported being less likely to gamble after the VIP Lounge signage was removed," Cameron added.

Wesley Mission advocates for comprehensive reforms that can bring about meaningful change. The organization recommends implementing and enforcing mandatory cashless gaming, reducing the hours available for gambling on electronic gaming machines (EGMs), and establishing a state-wide self-exclusion register. According to Cameron, these measures are essential for mitigating the negative impacts of gambling and promoting a healthier community.

Final Thoughts

The staggering $8.1 billion loss on pokie machines in New South Wales in 2023 highlights a critical need for immediate reform. It is essential for the NSW government to implement decisive measures to address this issue. Recommendations include enforcing mandatory cashless gaming to curb impulsive gambling, reducing gambling hours to minimize high-risk late-night play, and establishing a state-wide self-exclusion register to support individuals struggling with addiction. Additionally, enhancing public awareness and providing robust support services are crucial steps in mitigating gambling harm. By prioritizing these reforms, the government can protect vulnerable communities and promote a healthier, more responsible gambling environment.

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