Australians lose $11.4b through pokies

·3-min read

Australians have lost a total of $11.4 billion to the pokies in a single year, a report shows.

More than 3.3 million people used gambling machines in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania in 2021 and 2022.

They each lost an average of $3429 in the past year, according to data compiled from Monash University's Gambling and Social Determinants Unit.

"It's not a surprise," Associate Professor Charles Livingstone told AAP.

"Unfortunately, the surprise is that it's really picked up in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania - particularly Queensland, which has now exceeded Victoria as the second biggest pokie state in the country."

More than $2.7b was lost in Queensland, compared to $2.23b in Victoria.

NSW gambling machine users still lost the most in the country, with $5.43b going to the pokies or $4525 per user.

"NSW has the highest spend because it has far away the largest number of pokie machines," Dr Livingstone said.

"And it's down in Victoria and NSW, entirely because of the pandemic restrictions that were put in place."

The local government area with the biggest losses was Brisbane with more than $591 million, closely followed by the Gold Coast ($392m) and Canterbury-Bankstown in Sydney ($432m).

Victoria's biggest losses were in Brimbank in Melbourne's west ($128m), while Port Adelaide Enfield in South Australia and Glenorchy in Tasmania lost $86m and $19m respectively.

Tough financial conditions were continuing to drive gambling machine use across Australia, Dr Livingstone said.

"People are living in very stressful circumstances at the moment," he said.

"Unfortunately, one of the things that poker machines do is they provide relief from stress which is why they tend to be clustered in areas of socio-economic disadvantage.

"The biggest losses are always in areas of relative disadvantage because those are populations under significant stress."

Gambling can be both a symptom and an outcome of other issues like mental illness or family violence, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation principal clinical advisor Tony Clarkson said.

"The most prevalent harm is usually, in the first place, financial," he told AAP.

"It can be anywhere from being unable to fund a child's school trip, all the way to losing a house and having to live in your car.

"They are more likely to experience mental ill health so there's a high prevalence of disorders like anxiety and depression."

Services like the Gambling Helpline were there to support those with a gambling addiction and their families, Mr Clarkson said.

"People can go to a gambling counsellor free of charge for as long as they need to," he said.

"Gambling may be the symptom of why they need some psychological support, but it's often other reasons that are the cause or have been exacerbated by gambling."

Meanwhile in federal parliament, Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie has proposed a law to hold gambling companies accountable for ensuring betters are not using funds obtained illegally.

The proposed law changes would allow the federal court to order companies to compensate people if they have lost money by fraudulent means to someone who has gambled it.

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