BUNDABERG residents have already ploughed more than $7.9 million into poker machines this year, despite enduring one of the worst floods in the city's history.
The January and February spend compares with about $7.5 million over the same period last year and $7.3 million in 2011.
CQ University Associate Professor and gambling researcher Matthew Rockloff said this was not a surprise and, like alcohol sales, gambling was remarkably resistant to tough times.
"Gambling is similar in that expenditures may go down, but they don't go down as much as other discretionary spending," he said.
Assoc Prof Rockloff said one of the reasons for this was because gambling offered an escape for people from their problems.
"Particularly when you're playing electronic gaming machines or the pokies where you don't have to worry about what's happening outside," he said.
"It's just you interacting with the machine and distracting yourself."
The latest figures come as the State Government puts forth proposals in a discussion paper on potential red-tape reductions for liquor and gaming.
The paper outlines several options, including doubling the maximum bet per turn from $5 to $10 and allowing places with pokies to open before 10am.
Assoc Prof Rockloff said there was a lot wrong with the proposal to double the maximum bet.
"The evidence shows that people who bet the larger bet sizes tend to have gambling problems, while recreational gamblers tend to bet the lower bet sizes like $1 or less," he said.
As far as longer opening hours went, Assoc Prof Rockloff said this could mean more hours for people to spend gambling.
"Whether that will make a huge difference in terms of pathological or problem gamblers out there is doubtful to me," he said.
State Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the tourism industry had been held back by Labor's "obsession" with red tape and regulation, but pointed out that the paper was not government policy yet.
"The items in the paper are not government policy; this is an opportunity for the Government to obtain feedback from the public," he said.