Gambling on poker machines has skyrocketed in Queensland since venues reopened, with data from the Office of Liquor and Gaming showing almost $293 million spent in July compared to $161 million in February.
The level of gambling has more than doubled in some places including Mount Isa where $4.5 million was spent in July, compared with $2 million in February.
With experts saying Federal Government assistance payments, such as JobSeeker and JobKeeper, contributed to the spike a spokesperson from the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) said the amount of money (expenditure) put through electronic gaming machines in July 2020 was 32 per cent higher when compared to last year after in-venue gaming resumed on 3 July 2020 post-pandemic closures
"The Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation can't advise with certainty the reasons behind the increase but social and economic factors of the COVID-19 pandemic could have contributed," the spokesperson said.
"For instance, patrons may have been eager to resume some normal social activities with venues reopening after lock-down or used in-venue gaming as entertainment with restrictions still in place around other entertainment options, travel and leisure. Players may also have accumulated savings or other funds that previously weren't available."
OLGR said they are monitoring these figures closely while engaging with industry and gambling help services to monitor any potential increase in gaming-related harm to ensure suitable support options are available.
"Compliance officers will also ensure venues are complying with their regulatory obligations to reduce gaming-related harm, as well as COVID-19 requirements," the spokesperson said.
"OLGR worked closely with industry and Gambling Help Services in the lead-up to gaming resuming to ensure Queenslanders who were at a heightened risk of gambling harm had support available. This included the option for patrons who may want to continue their break from in-venue gambling to exclude from a venue, or multiple venues, through a GHS, without physically attending a venue.
This engagement was supported by OLGR's 'Getting Help is a Safe Bet' social media campaign that focused on supporting at-risk patrons with the reopening of gaming venues and promoting self-exclusion.
In-venue and online promotion led to 2100 visits to the gambling help website, a significant increase when compared to the same period last year
"It's important all Queenslanders know there is a range of measures in place to assist them, their close friends or family members affected by a gambling problem," they said.
This includes free, confidential problem gambling counselling and support through Gambling Help Queensland with a 24 hour, 7-day-a week Gambling Helpline (1800 858 858), internet-based counselling service, face-to-face counselling services operating across the state, and additional counselling services delivered from alcohol and drug support services in four locations.
To access these services as well as a range of self-help resources, including information on self-exclusion and a quiz inviting people to check their gambling habits, visit the Gambling Help Queensland website at www.gamblinghelpqld.org.au.
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