Record pokies losses in 2023 as NSW waits for real reform

Wesley Mission

The people of NSW lost $8.129 billion to poker machines in 2023, an increase of $29 million on 2022 and the equivalent of $1000 for every adult and child in the state.

At the end of 2023, NSW had 87,545 poker machines in pubs and clubs, 895 more machines than at the end of 2022 despite a commitment from the NSW Government to reduce the number of poker machines in the state.

Wesley Mission CEO Rev Stu Cameron says the record losses highlights the need for the NSW Government to act urgently on introducing reforms that will reduce the record levels of gambling harm being experienced by the people of NSW.

“While we wait for the outcome of the current pre-implementation testing of cashless gambling in NSW, there are a range of reforms the government can introduce this year that will have an immediate impact on reducing harm.

“The government’s own research[1] shows the increased danger of harm occurring to people gambling after midnight. We urge the government to act now on powering down poker machines between midnight and 10am.”

Rev Cameron says NSW has already seen a positive impact from reforms introduced by the NSW Government in 2023.

“The enforcing of signage bans in NSW had a genuine impact on reducing harm. Our Community Attitudes survey in October 2023[2] revealed that 25% of people who gamble on poker machines at least once a month said they were less likely to gamble following the removal of VIP Lounge signage”.

The 2023 losses continue to reveal an increasing percentage of losses to the 22,488 poker machines in hotels, while losses in clubs have begun to plateau. Losses in hotels in 2023 rose to $3.55 billion, up from $3.49 billion in 2022.

“Despite only having 25% of the state’s poker machines, hotels account for 44% of all losses in NSW, and this percentage is increasing year on year”, says Rev Cameron.

Losses to the 65,057 poker machines in clubs in 2023 amounted to $4.57 billion, a drop of approximately $35 million on the previous year.

Once more losses across all venues were concentrated in the state’s most disadvantage LGAs.

The State’s top five LGAs (1.Canterbury-Bankstown, 2.Fairfield, 3.Cumberland, 4.Sydney and 5.Blacktown) for poker machine losses retained their in-order rankings, with data showing increased losses year on year for the fourth quarter of 2023, with a telling shift in venue type from clubs to hotels.

Compared to previous years, losses across the five LGAs were higher for hotel patrons than club patrons with a significant $13 million increase over the 92-day period from October 1 to December 31.

Cameron says the shift may be attributed to a range of factors including operating hours, a younger demographic and number of patrons.

“The shift is not unexpected given data shows the 18-34 year age group are more than twice as likely to gamble on pokies than 55-65 year olds[3] and are more likely to patronise pubs than clubs.”

/Public Release.