Push for urgent pokies reforms as Aussies lose $14.5 billion

Australians have recorded billions in pokies losses in the past year.

Australians have recorded billions in pokies losses in the past year. Photo: TND

State and territory governments are being urged to legislate new limits on pokies as Australians suffer billions in gambling losses.

Pokies losses rose to $14.5 billion in 2022-23, up 13.7 per cent from before COVID in 2018-19, Monash University and the Alliance for Gambling Reform figures revealed this week.

Tim Costello, spokesperson for the alliance, says cashless cards and restricted opening hours for venues are desperately needed to stop the harm.

“This is the biggest health problem in Australia and some state governments refuse to see it as that because their treasuries are raking in money from the pokies,” Costello said.

“We have the greatest gambling losses [per capita] than anywhere else in the world … it is absolutely urgent that state governments free themselves from the vice of the pokies barons.”

The introduction of cashless gambling cards, which can be used to set limits on pokies losses, have become a hot political topic over the past year, with Victoria recently pledging to implement a policy with a $100 pre-commitment limit for consumers.

But in NSW, Labor Premier Chris Minns has only committed to a trial of cashless cards at 500 locations across the state, which Costello said was an attempt to kick the can down the road.

He said cashless cards need to be fast-tracked across Australia’s most populous state, with the latest data showing NSW racked up a staggering $8 billion in pokies losses in 2022-23.

That’s up 23.7 per cent on 2018-19 – figures between 2019 and 2022 are not available because pokies venues were affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

The NSW Crime Commission has previously backed the cashless cards, saying it would reduce gambling harms and also money laundering, which is often associated with pokies gambling.

“Billions in dirty money is going through the pokies,” Costello said.

Pokies losses by state

NSW has the highest pokies losses of any state or territory.

Victorians lost $3 billion at the pokies in 2022-23, up 12 per cent on 2018-29, while Queenslanders lost an estimated $3.2 billion – a whopping 33.6 per cent higher than pre-COVID.

South Australia racked up $916 million in pokies losses, up 34.6 per cent on 2018-19, while Tasmania saw $189 million in losses, an increase of 10.5 per cent.

Astoundingly, these figures don’t even include pokies losses incurred in casinos such as those run by Crown and Star, meaning the true financial toll of the industry nationwide is still unknown.

The rise in pokies losses comes at a time when Australians are increasingly gambling online and on sports, with separate research showing losses related to these types of gambling are increasing significantly following massive marketing campaigns from global betting giants.

Limit opening hours

Costello said that while cashless cards were the biggest reform state governments could pursue to limit pokies harm, another useful step would be to limit the opening hours of venues.

Pokies venues in Victoria and NSW can stay open until 4am, which advocates argue contributes towards addicts staying at machines for hours.

“As my father told me, nothing good happens after midnight,” Costello said.

“That pokies dens can open until 4am is just unconscionable.”

Topics: pokies
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