Australian Pokies Generate Staggering $5.5Bn in Annual Tax Revenues

Australian Pokies Generate Staggering $5.5Bn in Annual Tax Revenues

Australia is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, with its citizens evidently having plenty of spare money available to spend on its more than 197,000 slot machines, known locally as pokies. While these machines have attracted a great deal of negative attention over the years due to their “significant social cost“, Ross Ferrar, CEO of Australia’s Gaming Technologies Association (GTA), recently took the opportunity to point out the huge contribution that the industry makes to the country’s economy each year.

Addressing an audience at the Australasian Gaming Expo in Sydney, Ferrar cited research carried out by the Centre for International Economics (CIE) revealing that the industry contributes $8.32 billion in revenue to the Australian economy each year, of which $5.5 billion is collected by way of tax revenue. Furthermore, an additional $284 million is generated by the exports of such gaming machines, all of which helps to fund important public infrastructure and services to the benefit of all Australians.

Harmless Enjoyment?

The survey (‘The Value of the Gaming Machine Industry in Australia’) carried out by aforementioned economic consultancy firm was commissioned by the Gaming Technologies Association, an Australian industry group representing Australian gaming machine technology manufacturers, such as Aristocrat Technologies, IGT Australia, Tabcorp, Scientific Games, and Konami Australia.

Acknowledging the carefully researched work conducted by the “highly credible organization”, Ferrar subsequently couldn’t resist the chance to take a swipe at those groups who have vehemently opposed the industry over the years. Highlighting that CIE’s statistics do not recognize the “harmless” entertainment that pokies provide millions of Australians each year, he also called upon the industry’s detractors to remember that their personal tax bills would be significantly higher each year if their prohibition ambitions were granted. As Ferrar told the conference in Sydney last week:

“So when the anti-gambling activists drive off down the pokies-funded road to drop their kids at the pokies-funded school, and when they have to visit the pokies-funded hospital, I hope that they remember that government revenue from gambling benefits all Australians, whether they like poker machines or not.”

Prompted a Strong Response

Needless to say, Ferrar’s remarks prompted a strong response from anti gambling campaign group, such as the Alliance for Gambling Reform, with the latter asserting that tax revenue produced by pokies are completely dwarfed by the harm that they inflict upon the community.

“The social costs of gambling, including family breakdown, relationship problems, domestic violence, and emotional and psychological distress, depression and suicide, are almost $7 billion per year in Victoria alone,” explained Ms Keogh, referring to a recent study undertaken by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.

Meanwhile, Stephen Mayne from the Alliance for Gambling Reform described Mr Ferrar’s comments as “delusional, denialist” and counter to the interest of the brands his association represents. He also threw further derision on Ferrar’s comments by saying that next he’ll be saying that “people enjoy smoking and it is good for them.”

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Pokies Culture

While pokies undoubtedly makes a very important contribution to the national economy, they also play a significant role in earning Australia its reputation as the world’s biggest gambling country per person. In 2016, for instance, Australians lost an average of AU$1,292 ($US990) per resident, as opposed to say the US whose residents lost less than half that amount. All told, betting losses per adult were around double the average reported in other Western countries. Furthermore, the country as a whole lost a staggering $24 billion gambling during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, $12 billion of which was lost on poker machines.

One piece of data that has been exaggerated, however, is the assertion that the country currently holds around 18% of all the slot machines in the world. According to the latest report by the World Count of Gaming Machines, there are 7,789,679 legal slot machines around the globe, of which 197,021 are located in Australia, representing just 2.53% of all such machines worldwide. By contrast, Japan heads the list with around 4.52 million pachinko and pachislot machines, followed by the USA (884,239), Germany (274,500), Spain (201,381), and then Australia.