Pokies high rollers spend big in northern mining towns

NORTHERN towns flush with profits from the gas and coal industries are spending more on the pokies, with the government suggesting fly-in, fly-out workers keen on gambling could be driving up the numbers.

Punters in Gladstone - a town enriched by $60 billion in gas projects on their doorstep - frittered away the most in the state, pumping the equivalent of $684.60 per person into the electronic gaming machines from November last year to November this year.

As one of the key coastal points with access to Queensland's coal industry, Mackay spent only slightly less, the equivalent of $672.25 per person.

Rounding out the rest of the top five was the coal-rich Isaac region with $612.77 per person, Rockhampton with $587.07 and Bundaberg with $584.66.

These five centres funnel more cash into gaming machines than even Cairns, Townsville, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, where residents have access to full-size casinos as well as the usual collection of poker machines.

Queensland Attorney General Jarrod Bleijie said the higher rate of gambling in regional areas may be caused by the visiting workers in the mining and gas sectors.

Mr Bleijie said these "significant transient working populations" including those fly-in, fly-out workers, would be contributing to the figures.

In other areas, he said the spending could be higher thanks to tourists in the area.

The latest data comes just weeks after the state government relaxed rules so punters could use $50 and $100 notes in gaming machines.

A betting cap still stands at $100, well below the New South Wales betting cap of $10,000 and Victorian cap of $1000.

Mr Bleijie said the government had strong programs to address the less than half a percent of the population it considers to be problem gamblers.

Queenslanders spent more than $2.1 billion on pokies in the past 12 months, the equivalent of $464.72 per person.

Of that, $47.8 million went to community groups and $5.2 million was spent on helping gambling addicts or about 2.5%.

Relationships Australia spokeswoman Emma Malone said she understood the state needed to balance the gaming industry with the needs of those most vulnerable to gambling addiction even as problematic players remained an issue.

"I would encourage people to seek help early if they feel they may have a problem with gambling," she said.

For anyone needing help, call the national gambling help hotline on 1800 858 858.

Amount spent from Nov 2012 to Nov 2013 per person on poker machines:

  • Gladstone: 684.60
  • Mackay: $672.25
  • Isaac: $612.77
  • Rockhampton: $587.07
  • Bundaberg: $584.66
  • Fraser Coast: $575.33
  • Cairns: $556.05
  • Gold Coast: $534.56
  • Townsville: $514.20
  • Sunshine Coast: $488.85
  • Ipswich: $459.69
  • Toowoomba: $429.76
  • Brisbane: $421.32
  • Gympie: $297.67