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Source: Productivity Commission, Australia’s Gambling Industries and Problem Gambling Victoria
Poker machines were legalized in New South Wales in 1956; the ACT in 1976; Victoria and Queensland in 1991; South Australia in 1992; Tasmania in 1997; and the Northern Territory in 1998. They are banned in Western Australia, except in the casino.
There are 196,900 poker machines in Australia; 95,012 are in NSW, with a further 46,663 in Queensland and 28,860 in Victoria. In comparison, there are just 16,440 pokies in New Zealand and 97,161 in Canada.
Australia has the most poker machines per person of any country in the world (excluding gambling destinations dominated by the casino industry like Macau and Monaco), with one machine for every 114 people.
In 2013–14, Australians lost A$11 billion on poker machines in clubs and hotels. A further A$1.5 billion is estimated to have been lost on poker machines in casinos. That’s a total of around A$700 per adult per year.
Australians lose more on gambling than any other nation, mostly because of poker machines. In 2014, Australians lost more than US$1100 per capita, compared with less than US$600 in New Zealand and the US, and less than US$500 in Canada and Britain.
In 2013–14, state and territory governments raised A$3.2 billion in taxes on poker machines in clubs and hotels – that’s 5% of state-levied tax revenue.
Between 20% and 30% of Australian adults play poker machines at least once a year (except in Western Australia). The 4% who play weekly are conservatively estimated to lose an average of A$7000 to A$8000 per year.
The average poker machine in clubs and hotels makes A$56,000 per year. Some machines are much more profitable, with pokies in several venues in Victoria making more than A$200,000 each.
The latest statistics published by the Queensland Treasury in the 35th edition of Australian Gambling Statistics (regarded as the authoritative source of gambling statistics in Australia) show that, in total, Australians bet more than $242 billion in 2017-18. Two. Hundred. Forty-Two. Billion. The previous year (16-17), this figure was $208 billion.
Averaged out across all 19.75 million Australians aged over 18 (based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data), this is more than $12,000 per person! Of the various forms of gambling:
That’s the total amount spent: not every dollar spent on gambling is lost – that’s the whole risk-reward appeal. The same report tallied our national gambling losses at just under $25 billion – $24.88 billion to be exact. Per person that’s more than $1,260 lost to gambling every year, and a 5% increase on the figures from 2016-17. You can break these losses down into:
So the average man and woman over 18 in this country is losing $1,260 per year just on gambling. That’s $1,260 that could be going towards people’s loan repayments, mortgages, credit card bills, savings accounts, or investments. It’s an extra $1,260 that they could spend on their families or friends. Remember that there are countless people who lose well over this amount every year. Some people will be losing tens if not hundreds of thousands to the game of chance.
NSW pokie machines made $6.5 billion in profit in 2019 – that’s roughly the GDP of the entire country of Fiji.
In 2017, the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that there were more than 200,000 active pokie machines in Australia, with 100,000 of them in NSW. You can walk into pretty much any pub or sporting club, plonk yourself down at a machine and mindlessly press a button. In Victoria, 90% of AFL teams operate their own pokies. They’re easy to access, and they’re everywhere.
There are certain regulations on pokies in Australia. You can’t place a bet of more than $5, for example, and NSW recently put a 20% cap on new pokie machines in problem gambling areas – but they appear to have little impact. These machines also have mandatory return to player ratios: at least 85% in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, and the Northern Territory, 87% in the ACT, and 87.5% in South Australia. That means that over the life of the game in South Australia (often several years) it must return at least 87.5% of the wagered amounts back to the player. So a maximum of 12.5% of the turnover is there with the gambling venues. (source: various sites and article from William Jolly)
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