Student Kirby Chandler says she works too hard in her hospitality job to lose the money gambling. But, she said she would have a flutter on the Melbourne Cup.
Student Kirby Chandler says she works too hard in her hospitality job to lose the money gambling. But, she said she would have a flutter on the Melbourne Cup. Sharyn Oneill

Gambling soars – bet on it

ODDS are people like Kirby Chandler are becoming an increasing minority in Central Queensland.

Kirby, 18, has never played the pokies or placed a bet.

She doesn't see the attraction.

As Australia's politicians last week discussed the future of pokie machine reform, latest figures show a 13% surge in the amount of money poured into the machines so far this year compared to the corresponding period last year - when a record $108m-plus was spent in the Fitzroy region.

The figure, $18,008,922, is 30% up on two years ago.

At a time when the figures show minimal growth, or drops, in other areas, it appears mining communities are pouring the money in.

Mackay's figures also showed large growth of nearly 15%.

Add to that the reported growth in sports betting and it appears Central Queenslanders are punting at new high levels.

Last week southern media reported sports betting was the fastest-growing gambling sector in the country.

Tattsbett general manager Brad Tamer yesterday said there had been steady growth in sports betting, which represented about 6-7% of the company's take.

Mr Tamer said the NRL and AFL were the main markets for sports betting in Australia, making up about half of money gambled. He didn't provide any figures for Central Queensland.

Gambling expert Associate Professor Matthew Rockloff said gambling expenditure tended to be associated with the business cycle.

"When you see an increase in aggregate expenditure it could be one of two things," Prof Rockloff said.

"People who are already gambling are betting more, and that can cause them financial problems. Alternatively, greater expenditure could simply mean that more people are participating in low-level gambling, which is not necessarily a concern.

He said it was suspected that communities with exposure to the mining industry tended to have more problem gamblers, though this was not proven.

"There is not as much entertainment in some of these communities and there are people with very high incomes," Prof Rockloff said. He said despite the perception of people winning, very, very few people who gambled over the long term were ahead.

What poured into the pokies in different Queensland regions for the first two months of 2012 and year-on-year trends.

Fitzroy: First two months of 2012, $18,008,922 - up 13% on 2011 and 32% on 2010.

Mackay: 2012, $16,314,771 - up 14.4% on 2011 and 25.3% on 2010.

Brisbane: 2012, $125,900,726 - up 1.4% on 2011 and 7.7% on 2010.

Darling Downs: 2012, $13,643,338 - up 1% on 2011 and 12% on 2010.

Northern: 2012, $14,991,306 - down 17.3% on 2011 and up 12.4% on 2010.

Source: Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation



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