SA pokies spending at 13-year low

Spending on poker machines has hit its lowest levels since 2003 in South Australia, with punters moving to online games, local media reports.

According to figures published by the Consumer and Business Services department, punters lost A$719 million (US$538 million) to poker machines in 2015-16, down from a peak of A$793 million in 2006-7.

Inflation, economic uncertainty and the rising popularity of online betting options were the main reasons for the fall in revenue, which is in turn affecting pubs and clubs in the state.

“The reality is that it’s a total package. At the end of the day, you make a profit or loss based on the total income of a premises being more than the costs,” Australian Hotels Association SA general manager Ian Horne said.

“When one revenue source has been in such significant decline, and there is no capacity to increase prices because competition is intense in food and liquor, people simply have to tighten their belts.

“These are some of the toughest trading times that we’ve seen for approaching a decade,” he added.

The State Government relies on poker machine taxes for nearly A$300 million each year, but as total spending goes down, they are seeing a decline.

SA Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis has called for the Federal Government to take tough action against illegal offshore operators.

Koutsantonis said regulation had to move quickly to catch up with technology.

“It’s our health workers and community organisations who clean up the mess, so it’s only fair that taxes on the profits of betting companies help pay for the cost,” he said.

“These companies should be taxed where the social harm from gambling is done, not in whichever jurisdiction the company is headquartered.”