A significant number of people who claimed flood and cyclone relief assistance from Centrelink may not have really needed the $1,000 they received, and it’s likely that a good chunk of any undeserved assistance was spent on leisure activities, including gambling. This may explain the surge in spending on poker machines in January and February this year, as reported yesterday in the Courier-Mail ($3,500 every minute):
QUEENSLANDERS blew an unprecedented $3500 a minute on poker machines in the first two months of 2011.
The massive spending has set gamblers up for the worst year of losses on record. In January and February, hotels and clubs took $294 million from pokies.
The splurge is up 8 per cent on the corresponding period last year, revealing a worrying rise in pokie losses since last June, when the global financial crisis had hit home. And it does not include gambling on casino machines.
The official figures from the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) record big increases in spending on pokies in regions affected by the disasters – particularly in North Queensland, Far North Queensland and the Fitzroy region (which includes Rockhampton) – suggesting the disaster relief money is a signficant contributor (see table below). Brisbane doesn’t stand out despite the January flood, which is probably because it’s a big region, so the proportion of people directly affected by natural disaster was a smaller proportion than in North Queensland or Far North Queensland.
Our disaster relief policies require reform so that next time they better target those people genuinely in need.
Related Queensland Economy Watch post: