Punters in New South Wales lost $4.3bn on poker machines in the last six months of 2022, according to data from gaming regulator Liquor and Gaming NSW.
The data, which includes revenue from 220 new pokies in NSW, revealed an $820m increase on losses recorded in a similar period before the pandemic despite debate raging on gaming reform in the state.
The figures showed that total gaming machine net profits increased 11 per cent to $4.26bn – 24% higher than the $3.44bn reached in the last six months of 2019.
The report also identified Fairfield, Western Sydney, as the local government area with the highest net profit for poker machines in clubs, with profit of $225m over the six months.
Two locations in Fairfield — Mount Pritchard and Canley Vale – stood out in the report. Data showed that out of the 86,872 gaming machines in the state, the 615 machines at the Mounties social club at Mount Pritchard had the highest volume of profits, followed by the 450 machines at Cabra-Vale Ex-Active Servicemen’s Club at Canley Vale.
Meanwhile, another local government on the tail of Fairfield was Canterbury-Bankstown. It followed Fairfield closely with $204m, ahead of Cumberland which recorded $133m.
The data revealed a sharp rise in gaming profits since before the pandemic and a drastic uplift in gaming profits of 120% since the same time in 2021 when Sydney was in lockdown.
Liquor and Gaming NSW attributed the rises in part to patrons heading back to pubs and clubs, as well as machines that were offline during the pandemic being switched back on. Profits in pubs jumped by more than $400m over the period, while club profits rose $300m.
It should be noted that NSW was about to see drastic changes to its gaming industry before the recent state election. The LNP, lead by Dominic Perrottet, proposed to introduce gaming reforms starting with legislation that will make transitioning into cashless gaming, law in the state.
In the former premier’s quest to see this a reality, he went as far as convincing members of the cross bench, including Independent MP Alex Greenwich, to join forces.
Perrottet hoped the proposed policy would reduce gambling harm and prevent criminals from taking advantage of the current gambling system through money laundering.
However, the proposal was shelved when the Coalition government was voted out. Meanwhile, Labor’s views concerning gaming reform was more relaxed, with the party calling for an extension of the cashless gaming machines trials. The new government also vowed to set up an independent panel of experts to oversee an expanded 12-month trial of cashless gaming before committing to an expanded rollout.
Needless to say, this has earned them the ire of anti-gambling advocates who believe the party is merely patting the pervasive gambling industry on the head.
Speaking about the the report, Independent MP Greenwich said the profits in the latest report showed change is important.
“These super profits for clubs and pubs has come at a very cruel cost to families across NSW, and we also know has been fuelled by the proceeds of crime and money laundering,” he said.
“It’s time to act and I’m committed to work with the new government to curb the scourge of gambling harm in NSW.”
These figures don’t take in real money online pokies which are unregulated in Australia, but it is understood millions of dollars is filtered to offshore online casinos.