NSW Budget reveals big gambling revenues through COVID19

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NSW Budget reveals big gambling revenues

Ahead of the New South Wales State Budget, the ABC reveals that gambling revenue is back on the up after months of inactivity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gambling tax revenue in the state is expected to be nearly $3 billion this financial year, an increase of around $50 million since the half-yearly review.

Alliance for Gambling Reform’s Tim Costello said the government continues to ignore the personal impact of gambling on families and individuals.

“It’s very, very depressing and the dip for the 10 weeks the pokies were shut was a small dip, now it’s roaring back and we know most of these pokies are in your poorest postcodes,” he said.

“Fairfield residents who are already poor are contributing to treasury disproportionately.”

Queanbeyan poker machines do a roaring trade

While poker machines were closed in the Australian Capital Territory, just across the border in New South Wales, trade was roaring.

The Canberra Times reported in October that profits from pokies in neighbouring Queanbeyan more than doubled each month after ACT clubs stayed closed due to the coronavirus pandemic when compared to the year prior.

Following reports Canberrans rushed across the border to gamble when NSW venues opened on June 1, the 15 venues in the Queanbeyan-Palerang local government area took in $7,384,845 from gaming that month, up from $3,462,833 in June 2019.

While ACT gaming machines stayed switched off to comply with early stage-three restrictions in July, Queanbeyan’s gaming profit shot up more than 150 per cent on the same time last year.

The NSW gaming data revealed a more moderate increase of 84 per cent in August, with Canberra gaming venues switched back on in the second week of that month.

ClubsACT chief executive Gwyn Rees fought hard to bring Canberra in line with its border state, claiming clubs were losing about $5 million in revenue per week during restrictions.

“The ACT was the last jurisdiction to provide a COVID recovery roadmap, last to get relief out, slowest to reopen business and is the worst-performing on business support,” Mr Rees said at the time.

With Canberra clubs reopened throughout September, gaming machine profit from Queanbeyan’s eight clubs and seven hotels dropped to $45,321,528, still up 27 per cent on last year.

Relationships Australia spokesperson Julie King said clients who engaged with the support service for counselling and financial advice during the coronavirus closures in Canberra had reported crossing to NSW during COVID-19.

Ms King said while having all gaming-machine venues closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus had been beneficial to problem gamblers who used machines, they had seen an increased uptake of online gambling.

“I think the biggest issue of what’s happened with COVID is not necessarily changing the behaviour of the gambler but it’s the potential impact that had on their families,” she said.

“If the gambler would not normally be gambling in the house the children would not normally be exposed to it, but given during the COVID time children were at home often they would observe their parents or their older sibling gambling, which increases the risk to children.”

Canberra residents crossing border to play pokies

Residents of Canberra who are prevented from playing pokie machines near their home due to COVID-19 restrictions are crossing into New South Wales to play.

The Canberra Times reported in August that up to 40 per cent of patrons of border town clubs in New South Wales are actually from the ACT.

Clubs ACT chief executive Gwyn Rees said reports coming from pubs and clubs in Queanbeyan were that almost half of those signing in were from Canberra.

Mr Rees said NSW clubs were seeing an extraordinary turnaround in food and beverage trade, while ACT clubs remained closed to gamblers.

William Brown

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