Playing pokies is a popular hobby for Australians. Aussies gamble more than any other country in the world, which also means they lose the most money. Poker machines, or pokies as they’re affectionately known, are the biggest form of gambling in Australia. Residents of New South Wales (NSW) have gone big on poker machines since casinos reopened.

Australian casinos slammed their doors shut earlier this year under the orders of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. They remained shut for more than three months in an attempt to curb the COVID-19 virus spreading. Whether that worked as planned remains to be seen, but Australians are making up for time lost during the closures.

NSW residents ploughed money into poker machines during the first week of June. $3,886 was the average turnover per poker machine for a net $324 per pokie in clubs. That represents an increase of $1,792 average turnover for the entire month of June 2019.

Hotel and casino pokie playing resulted in even larger numbers. $7,927 average turnover and $682 profit per poker machine were the astounding figures. This was for the first week of June 2020. NSW hotel poker machine players only turned over $4,445 ($378 net per pokie) in all of June 2019.

NSW Poker Machines Rake In $571 Million in a Month

NSW poker machine players lost more than $571 million in June 2020, up $40 million from the previous year. That is an astronomical amount of money. Pubs and clubs in Queensland saw revenue of almost $300 million during July 2020. This huge sum was achieved despite there being social distancing measures in place.

Tasmania may only have 520,000 residents but they still raked up $19 million in losses. Southern Australians also endured bankroll-damaging losses. Pokies there saw $73 million drained from residents.

Victoria is the only Australian state not reporting massive losses. This is because Victoria remains in lockdown and Crown Melbourne remains closed. Victorians lost $235 million in July 2019.

Anna Bardsley is an advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform. Bardsley is concerned about the upward trend on poker machines spending.

“The money that wasn’t lost in those few months when lockdown was on instead went to small businesses. It went to supermarkets, it went to putting food on the table.”

Bardsley used to play poker machines frequently but doesn’t any more. She’s not played them for the past 14-years. She’s more than aware that it takes time for addicts to break their addiction. The lockdown period helped some problem gamblers but not them all.

“I know from my own experience it took longer than a few months to rewire my brain. I will literally not give poker machines another dollar. The recovery has been long and hard.”

Pokies See 32% More Money Put Through Them

Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) is working with the gambling industry, offering support to those with heightened risk. OLGR revealed 32% more money went through poker machines in July compared to 2019.

“OLGR continues to monitor these figures closely while engaging with industry and gambling help service to monitor any potential increase in gaming-related harm, to ensure suitable options are available.”

Miss Bardsley called for sweeping changes to poker machines and the venues offering them. She wants warning signs displayed on pokies around the country. Other suggested measures are $1 cap on bets.

Venues having long opening hours also came under fire from Bardsley. Current regulations allow pubs and clubs to open up to 20-hours per day.

“Gaming rooms are only part of a pub that’s open at four o’clock in the morning. Nothing good is happening then. It’s appalling.”