Australians Top World’s Biggest Gambling Losers List Again

Australians Top World's Biggest Gambling Losers List Again

Australians have long had a penchant for gambling, and according to estimates around 80% of its adult population are known to have indulged in some form of gambling activity at some time in their lives. This is also reflective of a country with a booming economy and generally high quality of life which allows its residents more time and money to spend gambling at the country’s many casinos and poker machines which are found all over the land.

Gambling is also deeply ingrained in Aussie culture, with the leading sporting nation attracting bets from a public happy to place wagers on a variety of sporting events, including cricket, rugby, or the country’s important thoroughbred racing industry. Nevertheless, Aussies will be less enamored about having headed the world’s biggest gambling losses per person list for several years now, with the latest report released by the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office once again confirming the dubious honor.

World’s Biggest Gamblers

According to the report, Australian adults spent a collective $209 billion gambling during the 2016-17 period, or the equivalent of $11,000 per person, with that figure higher by 0.7% versus the previous year. The money was spent across a range of different products, including pokies, casinos, lotteries, and racing and sports betting, at the end of which the industry won $23.7 billion, or $1,251 from every person over the age of 18.

By comparison, Singapore in second place lies a long way back with around $1,000 losses per capita over the same period. While Australia has had a gambling industry for around a century, however, Singapore only opened its first casino in 2010, with this recent trend naturally giving the country cause for concern.

Types of Gambling Products

Australia has an incredible 200,000 slot machines, known as pokies, spread across its six states, or one for every 114 people. It’s therefore little surprise that most of the money gambled in 2016-17 ended up being spent in the ‘electronic gaming, casinos and lotteries’ sector. The $174.63 billion subsequently spent resulted in an overall loss of $19.3 billion, or $1,020.34 per person.

While efforts are being made to deal with the country’s ‘pokies problem‘, another emerging sector will be of increasing concern for anti-gambling groups, namely Australia’s burgeoning sports and horse race betting markets. In 2016-17, sports wagering attracted $10.1 billion in total bets, and overall losses of $1.06 billion, with the corresponding $56.09 in losses per Australian representing a 15% year-over-year rise.

Similarly, the horse racing industry also experienced a surge in interest over the period, with the sector attracting $26.86 billion in bets, resulting in $3.31 billion ($174.96 per adult) in losses, higher by 7% from a year earlier.

Mobile and Advertising Concerns

Commenting upon the latest results, Dr Chris Hunt, a clinical psychologist at the University of Sydney’s Gambling Treatment and Research Centre, noted that horse and sports gambling are currently the “fastest growing area of gambling”, and that around 35% of his clients are developing behavioral problems directly related to these verticals. The ease in which gamblers can quickly download a sports betting app and gamble on mobile sites is also exasperating the situation, according to Dr Hunt.

Meanwhile, Dr Kate Fennessy, Coordinator of the Gambling Treatment Program at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital, has highlighted that it is a higher proportion of young men that are currently suffering from sports and racing addiction problems via their mobile phones. Both Fennessy and Hunt have blamed the constant promotion of sport betting over various media as a major contributing cause of the situation, and have said that it would be healthier if people could learn to just enjoy watching sporting events without feeling the urge to place a bet.

At the start of this month, Australia’s gambling industry drew further ire from anti-gambling groups after an advertisement for the Everest Cup horse race was projected onto the Sydney Opera House. As World Vision Australia Chief Advocate Rev. Tim Costello subsequently commented:

“We know that the US blind spot is guns. What Australians now have woken up our blind spot is captured by gambling interests.”