POKIES LOSSES REACH $800m - Friday 12th of August 2005

YEARLY gambling losses on poker machines in South Australia have topped $800 million for the first time – $667.50 for every man, woman and child in the state.

Opponents of poker machines have predicted the losses will top $1 billion within three years. They say as much as $340 million a year of the losses comes from problem gamblers.

Based on an average number of 15,690 machines operating across the state in hotels, clubs and the casino, yearly losses per machine averaged $50,994.

The new figures for the 2004-05 financial year, from the Office of the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner, also show poker machines have put $298 million into State Government coffers.

Losses on machines have grown from $186.9 million in 1994-95 with the average loss per machine per day rising from $98 to $134 in 2003-04.

Hotels and clubs raked in $452.9 million in 2004-05.

The growth in revenue is expected to see the 2004-05 tax take rise to $307.4 million in the current financial year.

The amount lost in hotels and clubs in 2004-05 was $749.25 million while another $50.1 million was lost in the casino.

That compares with total losses in 2002-03 of $718.3 million and $771.5 million in 2003-04.

Statistics show SA gamblers lost $197.5 million, $190.2 million, $177.3 million and $184.1 million in each of the four quarters of 2004-05.

The Government has predicted falls in revenue from gaming machines in 2005-06 because of the full effects of smoking bans in hotels and clubs.

Gambling Minister Michael Wright said the Governments concern was reflected in the way it had so vigorously pursued many of the recommendations of the Independent Gambling Authority aimed at curbing poker machines. "The removal of 2195 gaming machines on the first of July this year, coupled with the introduction of codes of practice will make a difference," he said. "The Government wants and expects the revenue to go down."

No Pokies MLC Nick Xenophon, however, said the figures showed the Government had to go back to the drawing board.

"The harm minimisation measures are not working," he said. "Breaking the $800 million figure is a millstone not a milestone for the state."

Mr Xenophon said the bigger the level of losses, the bigger the level of damage in the community.

Uniting Cares advocacy and communication manager Mark Henley said he was not surprised by the figures because he had calculated the losses would top $1 billion within three years. "The real tragedy is that the bulk of these losses – the $340 million – is coming out of the pockets of problem gamblers," he said.

Opposition gambling spokesman Robert Brokenshire said he was surprised by the figure and said it showed there was a serious problem for a small percentage of people which was having "an enormous impact on them and their families".

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