New figures have revealed people are increasingly gambling online since gaming venues across the territory were forced to close to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
An analysis of Australian banking transaction data, collated by analytics consultancy AlphaBeta and credit firm Illion, found a 114 per cent increase in spending on online gambling in the third week of May, compared to normal weeks.
In an Australian Institute of Criminology study of 1000 people, investigating the increase in online gambling during coronavirus, 45 per cent of those who reported gambling online in March had done so more than in January and February.
Nick Tebbey is the national executive of a government-funded support service based in Canberra, Relationships Australia.
He said online card betting or anything which "recreates the casino" was driving the online gambling trend.
Mr Tebbey said unmarried and employed men under the age of 30 were the most likely to engage in online gambling. However, he expected to see increased usage among different demographics following the closure of gaming facilities.
Alliance for Gambling Reform executive director Tony Mohr said there were two main effects springing from the shutdown of gaming facilities. Some gamblers had reported greater awareness of their problematic behaviour, since the pandemic had prevented the use of poker machines, while others were increasingly spending money online.
Mr Tebbey said the move to online gambling presented a difficulty in detecting the scale of gambling addiction across the country.
"It becomes so much more personal and private when you are using your own device," he said. "It becomes much harder for family members to notice."
Mr Tebbey said the first detection of the problem for loved ones was often withdrawal fees on bank statements. "People will start small and have a little dabble. The studies suggest that for the people who don't seek assistance early, online gambling can have the same long-term impacts on people's mental health and relationships [as more traditional methods]," he said.
Mr Mohr said there had been "too little transparency" surrounding an advisory group to the national cabinet, which proposed reopening gaming facilities next month as part of step three of the federal government's easing of restrictions.
Set up before the pandemic, the group includes Crown Resorts, Tabcorp, Woolworths' pokies arm ALH, the Australian Hotels Association, Community Clubs Victoria and the RSL.
He said when venues reopened in the ACT, the Alliance would support a ban on electronic gaming machines in clubs like that introduced in WA in 1987, opening the way for creative revenue-raising through events.
"That'd be a huge win for the art sector which has really been crippled by this," Mr Mohr said.
Canberra Southern Cross Club operates gaming venues in Woden, Tuggeranong and Jamison, as well as the Yacht Club in Yarralumla.
With all 554 poker machines dormant since March 20, chief executive Ian Mackay said revenue from gaming was expected to be about 5 per cent of what was taken in over this period last year.
Mr Mackay said Southern Cross had worked hard to diversify towards an even split in health and wellness, gaming as well as food and beverage revenue streams.
He said it had begun with the removal of machines from the Yacht Club in 2015 and the opening of Stellar Canberra, a gym in Woden.
Mr Mackay said the loss of revenue from gaming during the pandemic had been "significant but not everything".
Our COVID-19 news articles relating to public health and safety are free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. If you're looking to stay up to date on COVID-19, you can also sign up for our twice-daily digest here.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.