COVID-19 poker machine loss up to $1.5b
(image: https://s.search.naver.com/imagesearch/instant/https2F2Fvi2Fhqdefault.jpg)Poker machine gamblers likely saved up to $1.5 billion in the weeks since pubs, clubs and casinos have been closed because of coronavirus restrictions. But it's not known if that money has been gambled away in online formats, during the shut down across the nation. Alliance for Gambling Reform says $1 billion has been saved in less than a month across pubs and clubs, but the figure is closer to $1.5 billion if estimated gambling losses in casinos are also counted.
AGR chief advocate, Tim Costello, said the huge figures demonstrated "just how big of a scourge poker machines are in Australia". "That's more than $1 billion that can instead be spent putting food on tables, paying for medical bills and utilities, rent and mortgages," he said in a statement on Wednesday. "Beyond the personal financial benefits and those for our economy, this current poker machine shut down will be significantly reducing gambling harm." He said the impacts of gambling harm included mental ill-health, homelessness, family violence and even deaths by suicide in some cases.
"Those are serious issues inevitably escalating through this crisis, but minimising gambling harm as a contributor to these issues is a good thing," he said. Rev Costello has backed the ACT government's move to pay $15,000 to community clubs to surrender their poker machines, with the money going towards retaining and supporting staff. He said the COVID-19 crisis presented the community with an opportunity to rethink the way leisure time is spent.
Sporting and idn play other clubs should also think about how to serve their communities by "not draining them of money via poker machines". Former poker machine user and gambling reform advocate, Anna Bardsley, said she knew of many people who had been helped by the shutdown of poker machines. "I was speaking to one woman the other day who used poker machines a lot before they closed. She said for the first time in many years she actually was able to buy Easter eggs for her children as that money hadn't been fed into a poker machine," Ms Bardsley said.
"I almost cried when I heard that. That's how addictive poker machines can be; so addictive that a loving mother would effectively gamble away her children's Easter eggs." Lifeline 13 11 14 beyondblue 1300 22 4636 Advertisement
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