Is Pokies an Issue in Australia?

pokies as an issue
When did Pokies Start to Become an Issue

Pokies have become an integral part of many peoples night out; in fact they have now become one of the main income streams of many bars, clubs and casinos. Taking this into account many now say that pokies are an issue; because more and more people are turning to pokies as a way of a gambling addiction. Because of all this many have been asking the question of when did pokies start to become an issue?

Today we will talk about this question and shed some light on the answers.

Pokies were first invented over a hundred years ago. But the Aussie version many of us love was only invented some 50 years ago. From the moment they were first introduced Aussie pokies were a smash hit; with many enjoying their gameplay and the potential to win.

As they have been in Australia for decades; why is it only now that many are saying there is an issue with pokies?

The Evolution of Pokies in Australia

YearNumber of Poker Machines in Australia

Pokies, or slot machines, have a long history spanning over a century. The Australian version we are familiar with today, however, has only been around for approximately 50 years. From the moment they were introduced, Aussie pokies were an instant success, captivating many with their engaging gameplay and the lure of potential winnings.

Despite being an integral part of Australian recreational activity for decades, it’s only recently that concerns over pokies have started to mount. So, what factors have contributed to pokies becoming a widespread issue?

Pokies an Issue in Australia

The Rise of Pokies Addiction

Addiction to Pokies
Addiction to Pokies

Like any form of entertainment, the enjoyment of pokies can lead to excess. In the same way some people become addicted to alcohol or other substances, an increasing number are becoming addicted to gambling—specifically, pokies. This trend can be attributed to a few key factors.

Firstly, the sheer availability and accessibility of pokies have increased dramatically in recent years. Originally confined to casinos, pokies have now infiltrated local bars and clubs, making them more accessible to the general public. This widespread distribution has inadvertently facilitated a rise in problem gambling.

Secondly, the current economic climate has exacerbated the situation. Financial stress and uncertainty can lead individuals to seek an escape or a quick solution to their monetary woes, with gambling often seeming like an easy way out.

Consequently, the issue of pokies addiction has become particularly pronounced over the past decade. This coincides with governmental policies that permitted the expansion of pokies into bars and clubs, while economic conditions took a downturn.

Addressing the Root of the Problem

It’s crucial to note that the pokies themselves aren’t the root issue. Instead, they are symptomatic of larger, underlying societal and economic problems. Essentially, the propensity for pokies addiction and the associated harms can be linked back to economic uncertainty and a lack of alternative recreational and employment opportunities.

Therefore, to effectively address the issue of pokies in Australia, a multi-pronged approach is necessary. This includes economic revitalisation initiatives, employment creation, and investment in mental health services to support those battling addiction.

The Role of Legislation and Regulation

Legislation and regulation also play a significant role in managing the issue of pokies. Stringent regulations can help control the number of pokies machines in the community, limit the amount individuals can bet, and enforce responsible gambling practices in establishments.

1956The Gaming and Betting Act
1973The Casino Control Act
1987The Gaming Machines Act
1991The Gaming Machine Control Act
1995The Gaming Machine Act
2001Interactive Gambling Act
2005The Gambling Regulation Act
2008The Gambling Machines Act
2012The National Gambling Reform Act
2018Interactive Gambling Amendment (Pokies Online)
2020The National Consumer Protection Framework

There have been efforts in this direction, with several Australian states implementing policies aimed at reducing the harm caused by pokies. These include introducing caps on the number of machines in particular areas and implementing pre-commitment systems that allow players to set limits on how much they’re willing to lose.

Public Awareness and Education

Public awareness and education are another vital piece of the puzzle. Informing the public about the risks associated with excessive gambling and providing resources for those struggling with addiction is crucial. Campaigns that promote responsible gambling and highlight support services can go a long way in preventing problem gambling.

Moreover, education can help debunk myths about pokies, such as the notion of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ machines or the idea that one is due for a win after a losing streak. Understanding that pokies outcomes are entirely random can help individuals make more informed decisions about their gambling.


In conclusion, while pokies have become a significant concern in Australia, they are indicative of deeper societal issues. Addressing the problem requires comprehensive solutions that tackle economic factors, addiction support, legislation, and public education.

The rise of pokies addiction over the past ten years is not an isolated problem but is intertwined with economic hardships and the government’s decision to allow more pokies machines in bars and clubs. These machines, once a simple form of entertainment, have become a coping mechanism for some, leading to a cycle of addiction that can be challenging to break.

Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that the majority of Australians who play the pokies do so responsibly and within their means. The challenge lies in ensuring that the necessary safeguards are in place to protect those at risk and provide support to those who need it.

To do this, we must not only address the economic factors that contribute to problem gambling but also implement effective regulations to control the proliferation of pokies. Simultaneously, we must invest in public education and awareness campaigns to ensure that people understand the risks associated with gambling and know where to turn for help if they need it.

About the author

Guy Marlow