Gamblers in Australia’s Northern Territory spent a record amount of money on poker machines after coronavirus lockdowns in 2020, according to data from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade.
Player losses for July 2020 reached AU$25m (US$19.03m), a 52% increase from the prior-year period.
Northern Territory clubs, hotels and casinos were forced to take all poker machines offline between 23 March and 5 June 2020 due to restrictions amid the pandemic. Once reopened, poker machines recorded significantly higher monthly losses than in previous years.
Dr Matt Stevens, a gambling researcher at the Menzies School of Health Research, argued that the increase in activity can be directly linked to a rise in welfare payments from the federal government.
“I would call it probably the JobSeeker effect,” Stevens said.“People had double the amount of money that they’re used to. And what you do find with gambling in general, when people have extra money, often they’ll have a bet on it and see if they can double it.”
Other jurisdictions in Australia also reported increased player losses, but none were close to the rises witnessed in the Northern Territory. The statistics come after a recent government-funded report revealed the prevalence of problem gambling in the region had doubled over three years to become the highest in the country.