Profits from poker device gambling in NSW clubs surged regardless of the pandemic that is COVID-19 State Government data obtained by the ABC has revealed.
- Clubs reopened in June 2020 after NSW’s coronavirus lockdown
- A leading expert says there could be several reasons why profits surged after that
- ClubsNSW argues the increase was less than spikes seen in other industries
Gamblers across the state lost $2.17 billion to poker machines in clubs from June to November 2020, up 7 per cent on the same period in 2019.
Punters in Western Sydney lost the most cash — in the Fairfield local government area (LGA), profits surged to $197 million, while in Canterbury-Bankstown they hit $187 million.
In Blacktown, pokie profits were up 16 per cent to $96 million, while in Penrith they increased 11 per cent to $68 million.
The 7 per cent statewide increase represents a bounce that is major, after groups in NSW had been closed between March 23 and June 1 as a result of state’s COVID-19 lockdown.
It’s the greatest increase that is year-on-year the four years of available Liquor and Gaming NSW data.
Sally Gainsbury, the director of Sydney University’s gambling treatment and research clinic, said there could be factors that are several the bounce.
Among Them was an increase in pandemic-specific government stimulus payments like JobKeeper and JobSeeker, and the known fact some people who were out of work would have more time on their hands.
“The venues being reopened did occur during welfare payments being made and stimulus payments,” Dr Gainsbury said.
“We have seen in historic patterns … that this does lead to spikes that are similar poker device income.
“It’s maybe not uncommon for here to be bumps in gambling during recessions.”
ClubsNSW, the body representing the interests of clubs across the state, said the 7 per cent lift in net profits was smaller than the bump experienced by other industries.
“A modest increase in gaming machine revenue … is not unexpected given the industry that is 10-week that preceded this era,” a spokesperson stated.
“Club video gaming earnings into the duration dropped well in short supply of the development in overall NSW retail sales for the period that is same which rose more than 10 per cent.”
Not everyone headed for gaming rooms when NSW’s lockdown ended.
Ross Davey lost $890,000 to pokies over three decades and said his gambling addiction destroyed his life.
“[My addiction] means I never got into the real estate market, it means I was never a viable option as a partner it means I didn’t engage in the commerce of everyday living,” he said.
“Everything because I never had any money we received experienced the devices.”
He Credits year that is last lockdown with “saving” him — it’s been 10 months since he played the pokies.
“I had a lapse, it was quite a nasty one,” he said.