The VCGR has just published gaming machine expenditure for Victorian pubs and clubs for March 2011. It’s up 5.4% – the largest monthly rise since April 2009. The financial year to date expenditure is running at 2.0%, the highest level since June 2009.

While the last five months have all shown positive growth ranging from 3.4% to 5.4%, it is
interesting to note that in 12 of the 13 months prior to this period there was negative  growth each month when compared with the previous corresponding period.

The question to ask is, why? Why has the market suddenly turned positive? There has not been any material change in numbers of machines operating, nor is there any new killer product on the market attracting players. There seem to be similar amounts of responsible gambling advertising.

Does a change of state Government lead to a change in the community’s attitude to gambling? We can dismiss this as a suggestion as the turnaround commenced in September 2010, when poker machine expenditure grew by 2.6%. After another negative growth month in October, when growth slipped back to -1.0%, positive growth returned before the election with 3.4% in November.

Perhaps the ongoing “pre-commitment” debate is indirectly promoting the playing of poker machines. This strikes me as unlikely although if it were to be the reason it would be a perverse outcome of Andrew Wilkie’s campaign.

A more likely explanation, I would have thought, has been the weather. Victoria’s wetter than average spring, summer and autumn may have contributed to the increased spend as people choose to entertain themselves indoors.