Gambling revenue in Western Australia has reached a record amount of AU$2.4 billion, although there have been severe lockdown and social distancing restrictions of land-based gambling in the entire country because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Racing and Wagering authority of Western Australia has boosted the funding for marketing and promotional activities by almost one quarter (22%) to over AU$34 million in the past year. According to reports, at the same time, the funding for problem gambling support, education and treatment in the state has fallen by 15% to less than AU$800,000.
Reports have shown that the average weekly spending of Australian punters rose by 332% in comparison to the period before the coronavirus pandemic but the decline in the funding for problem gambling support has been found concerning by many officials. At a time when the mobile gambling via WA TAB that is run by the state’s Racing and Wagering authority increased, along with the sales of Lotterywest, campaigners have been worried that initiatives aimed at helping gambling addicts deal with their problem gambling behaviour lack enough funding.
Reports have shown that approximately half of the TAB’s revenue in the state of Western Australia is generated by more than 300 land-based betting shops. At the same time, the turnover generated by the mobile gambling operations increased by 40% in the past year, even with the number of phone users increasing at a much smaller rate of 12%.
Experts Criticise Lack of Proportion between Problem Gambling Support Funding and Gambling Revenue Growth in WA
According to reports, at least one Member of Parliament has criticised some WA Government officials over the local Racing and Wagering authority’s decision to make further investments in its promotional materials at the time of the Covid-19 crisis. As mentioned above, while customer spending on gambling services has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, the spending for problem gambling support services has not increased as it should have.
On the other hand, Melanie Every, who heads Western Australia’s Financial Counsellors’ Association, has shared her concern that the support funding has not been boosted accordingly to the massive growth in the local gambling sector. Ms Every is also anxious that the trend regarding the increase in weekly gambling expenses would not be able to return to its levels from before the pandemic, although the number of actual punters has fallen. She remains concerned that while the number of gamblers has begun to decline, the number of active gamblers who wager on a weekly basis is by far the largest ever in Western Australia.
Experts believe that one of the factors that are most likely to be responsible for the lack of balance in gambling expenditures and gambling addiction support funding is the existence of a limited number of specialised counsellors on the territory of Western Australia, especially in comparison to other states, such as Victoria or New South Wales (NSW). Ms Every also believes that the Government has chosen a bad timing to increase the funding for the aforementioned counselling services during the Covid-19 crisis.
The past decade has seen the number of online gamblers in Australia double up, which could also be considered one of the main reasons for the massive growth in local people’s gambling expenditures.