The closure of poker machines in Tasmania resulted in a $4 million reduction in gambling losses for March compared to last year, new figures from the Tasmanian Gaming Commission reveal.
Coronavirus measure closed pubs and clubs and casinos on March 23 resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs in the hospitality sector around the state.
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The figures show losses of $9.09 million in March 2020 compared with $13.3 million in March 2019-equivalent to $663,000 a day less for the eight day period of closure.
On an annual basis Tasmanians gamble about $470,000 a day on poker machines.
The figures coincide with a strenuous debate over poker machines between the Tasmanian Hospitality Association and anti-poker campaigner Meg Webb.
Ms Webb, the independent Nelson Legislative Council member, greeted reduced gambling losses of about $17 million over the past five weeks as good news because it would allow householders to spend more on essentials.
The Tasmanian Hospitality Association called for Ms Webb to apologise to employees who lost their jobs and accused her of protecting friends who made a living from online gambling.
In a letter to The Examiner, Ms Webb said she had no connection at all, financial or otherwise, to online gambling interests.
"Quite frankly, it is astonishing to see the pro-pokies lobby in this state throwing around accusations of vested interests or cosy arrangements for financial backers," she said.
Ms Webb said it appeared she had hit a raw nerve on pokies' harm. "I will not stop highlighting the harm caused by pokies which is a reality for tens of thousands of Tasmanians," she said.
"Losses to pokies in Australia is ten times higher than for online gambling."