- Gamblers in New South Wales lost millions more to club poker machines in the second half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, new data shows.
- Figures first obtained by the ABC show those losses climbed 7% to an astonishing $2.17 billion.
- Postcodes in Western Sydney experienced the deepest losses, and academics suggest unique economic circumstances during the pandemic could be a contributing factor.
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Clubs in New South Wales reportedly saw their poker machine profits explode in the second half of 2020, suggesting many of the state’s gaming rooms thrived despite the coronavirus pandemic.
According to state government data obtained by the ABC, gamblers fed $2.17 billion into gaming machines between June and November 2020, marking a 7% uptick from the same period in 2019.
The data reportedly shows the greatest losses in local government areas across Western Sydney.
Club pokie machine profits saw year-on-year growth of $10 million in Fairfield, ultimately leaving gamblers $197 million out of pocket.
The story is similar across Canterbury-Bankstown, Blacktown, and Penrith, all of which saw increasing losses compared to 2019.
Clubs, hotels, and casinos were ordered closed in March 2019 in response to the pandemic, but venues reopened their doors from June.
In August, a preliminary report from the University of Sydney found nearly three in four respondents reported gambling less frequently during shutdowns – but most respondents expected to return to their pre-pandemic gambling patterns when restrictions fully lifted.
Speaking to the ABC regarding the new gambling data, Associate Professor Sally Gainsbury, who led the University of Sydney report, said the uptick in poker machine profits could reflect the impact of JobKeeper and the JobSeeker Coronavirus Payment, combined with lingering unemployment and free time for those without work.
While academics suggest a perfect storm of social and economic factors may have lured gamblers back to the pokies, peak industry body ClubsNSW told the ABC those pokie machine profits lagged behind other sectors emerging from COVID-19 lockdowns.
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