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NSW community loses more than $2 billion to pub and club poker machines as cost of living crisis bites

New data released by Liquor and Gaming NSW[i] shows total community losses increased in the third quarter of 2022 to $2.18 billion from 86,568 poker machines in NSW clubs and pubs. Comparatively, daily losses have increased from $21.3 million to $23.7 million.

Wesley Mission CEO and gambling reform advocate Rev Stu Cameron says the losses are obscene and cement the need for real and urgent reforms.

“More than $2 billion lost to pokies in just three months is unthinkable when people are struggling with escalating food, fuel and energy prices,” says Cameron.

“People experiencing financial hardship can be drawn into gambling, hoping for a win to afford groceries and pay the rent. However, any hope is an illusion, and the predatory pokies industry is positioned in every town and suburb to take advantage of people who may be vulnerable.

“We’re talking about enormous losses, but they are the best proxy we have to measure gambling harm. The gambling industry is estimated to be causing harm to 900,000 to 1.7 million people[ii] across NSW.

“Treasury predicted a sharp jump in gambling tax revenue driven by a stronger-than-expected recovery in gaming machine revenue[iii]. These numbers confirm that is exactly what is happening. This is nothing short of a public health crisis,” says Cameron.

Shocking statistics confirm reform is needed

  • Total losses from NSW clubs are $1.2 billion or nearly $13.2 million daily (56% of total losses)
  • Total losses from NSW pubs are $0.9 billion or nearly $10.5 million daily (44% of total losses)
  • There has been a sharp increase in daily losses, up 11% or $2.4 million daily; 8% higher for clubs and 16% higher for pubs.

Wesley Mission calls for greater data transparency

One of the five policy reforms in the Wesley Mission-led coalition that has released the Put Pokies In Their Place election platform is to improve data transparency.

“Transparency and accountability are central to a strong democracy. That’s why we’re calling for NSW poker machine data to be transparently published by venue at least every six months,” says Cameron.

Liquor and Gaming NSW publishes, roughly every six months, the data on ‘net profit’ (or losses to customers), taxes, number of poker machines and number of venues by local government area (LGA). The Business Intelligence Unit of Liquor and Gaming also makes this data available every quarter on request.

“Wesley Mission’s researcher has been granted access to their sharepoint site, which is where this Q3 data was drawn from. But it is not listed anywhere on the public-facing data-sharing webpage,” says Cameron.

“There does not seem to be any reason that NSW cannot publish data by venue. If we know which venues in each LGA are draining the most money from customers, we can begin to develop effective responses. Victoria is already doing it, which means they can see where the harm is happening. It’s time we shone a light on gambling harm in NSW.”

Wesley Mission provides practical care and support for more than 130,000 people annually in NSW and across Australia, including help for people experiencing homelessness, local community action groups preventing suicide, and gambling and financial counselling among more than 120 programs.

Rev Stu Cameron is available for interview.

Media contacts:

Anne Holt on 0418 628 342 or

[1] Data obtained by Wesley Mission from the Business Intelligence Unit of Liquor and Gaming NSW.

[1] 2019 NSW Gambling Survey:

[1] Questions asked by Ms Abigail Boyd MLC on behalf of Wesley Mission, submitted as Supplementary questions on 22 August 2022:

  1. What methodology does the Treasury use to calculate gambling tax revenue for forward estimates?

Treasury response: Gambling taxes include various racing taxes, club and hotel gaming machine taxes, lotteries, and casino taxes. Each is forecast separately based on their respective historical growth rates and their relationship to factors such as household consumption or income growth. When forecasting revenues, Treasury also considers the impact of other external factors at play in the macroeconomic environment.

  1. What is the basis for the significant increase in the forward estimate for the 2023/2024 financial year in the 2022/2023 papers? For clarity, in the 2020/21 papers, gambling tax revenue for FY 23/24 was forecast as $3074million, in the 2021/22 papers, the forecast for FY23/24 was amended to $3149 million (2.4% increase), and in the 22/23 papers, the forecast for FY23/24 was amended again to $3499 million – 14% higher than 21/22. Why?

Treasury response: The significant upgrade in the forecast for total gambling tax revenue in 2023-24 is largely driven by the recent decision to change the Point of Consumption tax and other betting tax rates to 15 per cent, which increased the forecast for gambling revenue in 2023-24 by $177 million compared to the forecast in the 2021-22 Half-Yearly Review.

Excluding these policy changes, gambling tax forecasts for 2023-24 were upgraded by 8.1 per cent compared to the 2020-21 Budget. This reflects a stronger than expected recovery in gaming machine activity following the easing of COVID restrictions and a faster-than-expected expansion in the online gambling market.

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