Australia’s Gambling Problem Is Growing

Written by Frank Kremer

Australia is in the top countries lists for many different topics ranging from most livable cities to deadliest animals. However, at the moment we see an increase when looking at the gambling problem, which is a pretty huge thing. Statistics show that Australians actually lost close to $950 per adult, a total of $17.5 billion in gambling in 2015. These per capita losses stand out as being among the highest of all the countries in the world.

Australia got in a mess due to a combination of pliant governments and the profitable industry that gambling is. Many are tempted to think that the gambling problem is associated with the growing popularity of mobile gambling but that is not actually the case. Around 50% of the losses came due to gambling on video machines and slots. The proportion is so much higher than what is seen in other countries. Australia is now officially hooked on what has been referred to as “crack cocaine of gambling”.

Fun88 is a Thailand based operation that specialized in gambling. Their analysis on the subject is highly similar to what is seen in Australia, with emphasis being put on how and why people gamble. According to their gambling experts, around 60% of the video gambling machine losses that appeared in Australia were connected with problem gamblers. There are around 600,000 people in Australia that now use these machines at least once per week.

Another thing that highly influences the losses is the way in which the gambling locations are chosen. Most of the really large gambling venues will be found in neighborhoods that are economically depressed. Casinos are built in such a way that gambling is attractive and the loneliness associated with the entertainment offered is something that is particularly taken advantage of in these neighborhoods.

Interviews with Australians that have a gambling problem showed that there are 2 things that normally go through their mind: chasing losses, which is common for all people that have gambling problems, and getting away from the troubles they have in real life as they get “in the zone”.

The Australian federal and state governments were caught off guard by the highly organized and resourced lobbying campaigns run by the gambling industry. Main industry advocates are actually huge donors to the 2 major political parties in Australia. While the country’s federal government now tries to regulate online gambling, video gambling machines in physical locations are not even discussed. A 2013 report highlighted that in New South Wales there are the most gambling machines present than in all world states, with the sole exception of Nevada. The losses accumulated by people in NSW sum up close to $4.5 billion.

The reason why the state governments do not really do anything is that there are billions that are gained in taxes because of the video machine gambling industry. State governments in Australia gained $3.65 billion in taxes last year.

Social costs are currently huge and include homelessness, bankruptcy, domestic violence and even suicide. In Victoria it was stated that the social issues associated with gambling are comparable to alcohol misuse and major depressive disorders.

Australians are ready for a change but this will not happen in the near future. Changing the gambling industry in the country is not something that is in the interest of the people that make the important decisions.


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Frank Kremer

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