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Gamblers losing $23 million a day on the pokies

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New data has found individuals in New South Wales lost $2.1 billion to poker machines in the third financial quarter of 2023.


That’s $250 for every adult and child in the state.
The New South Wales Department of Liquor and Gaming statistics were analysed by Wesley Mission to pinpoint areas of concern.
Wesley Mission Chief Executive Reverend Stu Cameron says the results are alarming.
“New South Wales residents lost $2.1 billion over a 92-day period. That’s $23 million per day. And that’s $250 per person, man, woman and child across the state. A staggering figure that shows that the poker machine industry is one of the most resilient ones around but also one of the most destructive as so much money is sucked out of the community could otherwise be spent elsewhere.”
The data suggests Western Sydney is the region with the highest losses in New South Wales.
The Markets Hotel in Homebush, the Crossroads in Casula and Wentworth Hotel in Homebush West all reported the highest losses during the third quarter.
Reverend Cameron explains why losses remain so high in Western Sydney.
“Western Sydney is the place where we see already huge mortgage and rental stress where a lot of people, increasing numbers of people are reaching out for direct assistance in putting food on the table, paying rent paying for mortgages, sending their kids to school with the right equipment. So, this is the place that has some of the biggest economic struggles and where the losses are the largest. It’s a very cynical industry the poker machine industry and it targets regions where they can least afford the losses that are generated through these machines.”
Hotels operating with the maximum of 30 poker machines earned, on average, $65,589 per machine in the 90 days from the first of July until the end of September in 2023.
Per year, that’s over $262,000 in profit for each poker machine.
And that’s not an uncommon profit – with Wesley Mission suggesting 22 per cent of hotels are responsible for 62 per cent of reported losses.
The state government has been under pressure to introduce gambling reform specifically for poker machines for some time.
Chief Advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, Tim Costello, says it’s urgently needed.
“The whole community gets hurt not just those who play and get addicted to the pokies. We need a cashless card where you’ve got to lock in your losses before you start playing and a time and you get locked out. Once you’re in front of that machine and playing, you’re in a zone and it’s hypnotic. A cashless card will allow people to play but they have to load up how much they’re prepared to spend. That’s the total limit with a time and then they’re locked out. That’s what we need. And the cashless card gets rid of the crime because no criminals are going to reveal their identity and get a cashless card to launder their drug money.”
Trials are currently underway across the state to test how effective the cashless card is, and could be, for curbing high gambling losses.
The Australian Hotels Association says any reform could put jobs at risk, but Mr Costello has rejected that idea.
“That’s a complete myth. For a million dollars spent in retail that creates 20 jobs. A million dollars spent in hospitality 10 jobs, a million dollars going through a poker machine less than two jobs. In fact, pokies are job killers, they’re job killers of other job creation if that million dollars is spent elsewhere.”
The report suggests some clubs in the state reported a decrease in losses compared to the same quarter in 2022.
In the third quarter of 2023, $1.16 billion was lost to the 65,000 poker machines in clubs.
In a statement, a Clubs New South Wales has outlined some of the benefits of having poker machines in venues.

“Unlike other hospitality venues, clubs are owned by the community, with profits going back into the community or into the upgrade of members’ facilities, rather than the pockets of shareholders or owners. A recent report produced by Urbis found that NSW clubs make a $9 billion social and economic contribution to the state annually. Included in that figure is $936 million worth of low or no-cost community or sporting facilities, over 10,000 free entertainment events per month and the support of more than 75,000 jobs across the state.”