The Victorian Commission for Gambling Reform recently released their EGM annual figures, without a lot of fanfare or fuss. These figures detail Victoria’s spending on EGMs (electronic gaming machines, which in Australia means poker machines) for the 2010-11 financial year. And just like last year, the amount of spin that they’ve managed to pack into one short press release is quite outstanding.
Last year, if you recall, the press release was titled “Poker Machine Spending Continues To Fall,” when in fact it was the first drop in pokie spending in the state in six years. This year they’ve gone one better. The press release, which was issued in late July, is titled “Poker Machine Spending Up On The Year But Down Over Decade.”
Think about that. What does it mean? We’ve spent more, but not compared to the past ten years? Sort of.
Here’s the reality. We have indeed spent more on poker machines in the past twelve months; a little over $2.65 billion in fact, which is an increase of 2.1% on the previous year. And no, in case you’re wondering that’s not turnover, or bets, or some other less meaningful amount; that’s the amount of money kept by Victoria’s poker machines, before tax, after all the playing was done. That’s how much Victoria lost.
A 2.1% increase equates to an extra $54 million on the previous year. Another way of looking at it is that each poker machine in the state made over $2,000 more than last year. Industrious little buggers aren’t they?
But wait! cries the VCGR. It’s not really that bad; we’re really spending less! If you take population growth into account, spending per adult is down 7.4% over the past ten years! So we’re doing well!
Umm… no. You can’t do that. You can’t take one factor into account and ignore everything else. What about the fact that there are fewer venues and poker machines in Victoria now than there were ten years ago? What about the worsening economic position that our world has found itself in? Surely these would be conducive to less spending as well… but they’re not.
The grim reality is that we lose half a billion dollars more each year on poker machines now, than we did at the turn of the century… even with fewer venues and fewer machines. Population growth can’t justify that.
And nor can the VCGR.