Gambling levels are up 329 per cent from pre-COVID levels in Sydney and Melbourne but Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has said it should not be used “as an opportunity to go harder on gambling”.
As Sydney and Melbourne remain in lockdown gambling levels have surged above pre-pandemic levels but Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has said there is no need for an “excessive overreaction”.
Weekly gambling levels in Australia have increased from a base index of 100 per week pre-COVID to 384.4 for the week ending September 19 according to a weekly consumer spending tracker developed by Accenture and leading credit bureau illion.
There has been an excessive surge in Sydney and Melbourne which has seen gambling at 329 per cent above normal levels beating last year’s gambling levels which peaked at 215 per cent above pre-pandemic levels.
The consumer spending tracker uses customer-consented anonymised bank transaction data from hundreds of thousands of Australian customers each week to track spending trends.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the surge in gambling was an issue of “concern” but said there was no reason to crack down on gambling.
“It is of concern, there’s no doubt about that but I have a real dislike for the nanny state so let’s not leverage this or use this as an opportunity to go harder on gambling,” Mr Fitzgibbon told Sky News host Peta Credlin.
Mr Fitzgibbon’s comments followed the suggestion that the majority of the money used for gambling was from lockdown support payments
“Problem gambling is a real challenge for us as a society and government has a role to play but thank goodness people who have been lockdown have had a number of things to keep them sane, gambling amongst them,” the Labor MP said.
“Most gamblers are responsibly gambling and I hope we don’t see some excessive overreaction to what I think, in the scheme of things, during the COVID period is not our number one priority.”
The current surge in gambling began from the week ending June 6 – just two weeks before Greater Sydney entered lockdown – while previous surges have occurred similarly during lockdown periods and when stimulus packages have been offered.
Accenture managing director Andrew Charlton said the national surge in gambling showed the impact of “boredom” people have faced in lockdown in addition to the extra money from government payments.
“It appears many people have been introduced to online gambling during lockdowns. They’ve discovered there’s a poker machine in their pocket,” he said, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
“Combine that with the boredom of being at home and extra money, maybe from government payments or extra savings, and maybe this addictive new technology gets away from us a bit.”
Chief executive of illion Simon Bligh also said the rise in gambling could be pinned down to a lack of opportunity to spend in lockdown.
“There really isn’t anywhere else to blow your cash in Sydney and Melbourne if you want a quick entertainment hit,” he said, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.