Australians Lose $20 Billion Gambling Each YearJanuary 17, 2012 1:36 pm
In Australia, stemming the tide of the country’s increasing gambling problem has become an obsession of the government, who see it as a major cause of many of Australia’s growing social problems.
Lying between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, the beautiful Southern Hemisphere continent is the world’s sixth-largest country but has a population of just 20 million people.
Incredibly, though, in 2008/09 the total recorded losses through gambling reached US$20 billion, averaging out at US$1,550 for every gambler, or 3.1% of household consumption.
Alcohol consumption has long been considered a social challenge in Australia, but now spending on gambling has reached twice that amount each week, with an estimated cost to society of around $5 billion a year. This figure includes lowered work productivity, bankruptcy, and crime, as well as relationship breakdowns, suicides and depression.
Online gambling accounts for around $850 million per year of the gambling spend, but it is the country’s obsession with slot machines, also known as ‘pokies’ in Australia, which has caused the greatest amount of concern for the government. Slot machines are believed to be the most addictive form of gambling and as Rev Tim Costello from the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce, explained recently:
“Australia has the highest number of poker machines per head in the world. There are 197,000 of them nationally and around half are in NSW.”
Compounding the problem is the fact that Australian pokies are ‘very high impact,’ highlighted by the recent Productivity Report released which concluded that the average loss on a standard pokie was US$1,236 each hour, with a loss of $10,308 an hour possible.
Consequently, there is now a growing movement in Australia to implement a whole set of measures designed to protect gamblers, which includes mandatory pre-commitment measures. As long time pokies campaigner Thang Ngo explains:
“In the end, it’s a big social problem [and] if the government don’t recognise it, we are going to pay in the end because it’s going to turn to crime, turn in to family break up and eventually we all pay for that.”