Letter to the Editor - July 18: Breaking down pokie figures

I AM writing with regard to the article 'Coffs Harbour loses big time on the pokies', published on Wednesday.

I am a researcher in this field and wish to draw to your attention to what appears to be a misinterpretation of the gambling losses data.

In NSW, pokies are required to return at least 87% of the total amount bet to the player, and on average return 92%.

The total amount before return to player is called turnover.

It is this total turnover that was reported in your article.

If return to player (or amount won) is subtracted, we reach a total loss figure that is 90% smaller.

If we are interested in how much people in Coffs spend on pokies (i.e. the amount at the end of the year that has been transferred from the pockets of players to those of venues), we need to use player loss.

I have a copy of the 2010-11 data that I will use for indicative comparative purposes (the data for the last financial year needs to be purchased from government).

It showed $41.5 million was spent on pokies that year (not close to the $461 million reported last Wednesday).

Similarly, $3.5 million is lost on pokies in Coffs each month (not the $38 million reported).

The region's pokies each reaped an average of $43,600 per year (not the $500,000 reported), equating to $119 dollars each per day (not the $1358 reported).

This compares with $267 per machine per day in Fairfield in Western Sydney, or $59 per machine per day in Bellingen.

There were actually 23 fewer pokies in the Coffs area in 2014 compared with 2011.

To put Coffs in perspective, the adult population, on average, each spent $724 per year on pokies in 2011 compared with $2338 in Fairfield and $434 in Bellingen.

This ranks Coffs 49th from the 152 NSW LGAs.

This is not to say that pokies are not a massive drain of community resources and a generator of significant social harm. Research has made this abundantly clear.

Dr Martin Young

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