Australia leads the world in gambling losses

October 17, 2022
Gambling is heavily promoted in Australia. Photo: Darya Sannikova/Pexels

Dr Charles Livingstone of the Gambling and Social Determinants Unit at Monash University has shown that Australia leads the world in gambling losses.

The report from the Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR), released in October, showed that people lost more than $11.4 billion to poker machines in pubs and clubs across five states last year.

The annual loss of $11.4 billion in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania is equivalent to a loss of $658 for every adult living in those states. This makes Australia, per person, the world’s biggest loser to poker machines.

The losses are not slowing down: total losses are estimated to be more than $13 billion next year.

New figures also show that in the 30 years to 2019 (the latest available figures) poker machine losses amounted to a staggering $308.4 billion.

If governments needed a reason to intervene and stop greedy multinational companies from preying on people, findings from royal commissions into Crown’s Melbourne and Perth casinos, as well as other inquiries into casinos and their operations, should be enough.

The findings state that those in charge are stealing from the vulnerable and engaging in “illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative” conduct, underpaying casino taxes, as well as breaching laws.

AGR wants a national gambling harm regulator to be set up to reduce the number of poker machines and fast-track harm minimisation measures.

AGR spokesperson Tim Costello said: “At the moment there is no coordination and no will to act.”

However, under pressure, the Tasmanian government decided to introduce mandatory pre-commitment and cashless gambling cards. The Northern Territory government decided on a nine-month moratorium on new poker machine licences in central Australia, and a national parliamentary inquiry into online gambling has been launched. 

Arie Huybregts, Broadmeadows candidate for the Socialist Alliance in the Victorian elections, told Green Left these reforms will do little to stem the flow of cash to the greedy casinos unless more significant action is taken.

Crown Casino has got away with “not paying gambling tax for nine years”, Huybregts said. “It has only recently been forced to cough up a miniscule $61 million.

“The damage done to children, families and working people by gambling is horrific and includes low self-esteem, poor relationships and poor physical and mental health. This all has an impact on work performance and social life.”

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs is seeking written submissions by November 11 for its inquiry into online gambling and its impacts on people with gambling problems.

[More information about the inquiry and submission can be made here.]

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