GRIM new data has revealed Gympie gamblers lost almost $400,000 more at the pokies in August this year compared to the same time last year.
The data, released by the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation, shows how much punters have lost at pokie machines in every local government area every month.
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The latest figures show the Gympie LGA lost $1,931,873 on gambling machines in August, which was $395,473 (22.80 per cent) more than that time last year, $181,545 (9.86 per cent) more than last month and $533,514 (32.04 per cent) more than in February, when COVID-19 lockdown restrictions temporarily saw machines switched off.
The stats weren’t completely negative though, with Gympie shown to have lost less money per machine than neighbouring LGAs on the Sunshine and Fraser Coasts.
Gympie averaged a $5221 loss per machine, the Fraser Coast saw an average $5808 loss and the Sunshine Coast was even higher on $6005.
While worrying the statistics did not surprise Reverand Tim Costello, Chief Advocate at the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
Rev Costello told News Corp the situation in most areas of Queensland would have been “entirely avoidable if the Queensland Government had listened to public health experts, as they did regarding the coronavirus”.
“It’s impossible to argue that gambling is an essential service in the middle of a pandemic. If anything, gambling being on offer during a pandemic is yet another public health risk, one that is almost universally overlooked in a crisis,” Rev Costello said.
“Given we are in a recession, it is a very risky time for people who are experiencing gambling harm.
“Then there are the public health issues associated with gambling harm to consider, including mental ill-health, family violence and homelessness. These are of major concern, now more than ever.”
Rev Costello said it was also likely much of the increased losses were coming out of people’s welfare and stimulus payments.
“In times of emotional and financial stress people often seek out gambling as a way to soothe themselves, and also with the hope it may rescue them from their financial issues, when it will almost certainly only exacerbate them,” he said.
“There have also been reports about people using the superannuation they have withdrawn due to COVID-related hardship being gambled away. That has not only short-term but also major long-term consequences for individuals, families, and the Australian economy.”
“Nothing good is happening in pokie rooms at 3am, but the industry wants pokies running then because their best customers are people who are experiencing the worst gambling harm.”
The Gambling Helpline (1800 858 858) is a free, confidential telephone help service which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.