Australian Gambling Addiction Is It An Epidemic?

In any given year, Australians lose $19 billion in casinos and online establishments. This means that the average adult here will lose $1300 every year, one of the highest rates of financial loss for this industry in the world. Australia gambling addiction leads the world, and "pokies", as slot machines are called Down Under, are becoming a major social problem.

Pokies Come To Australia

In 1992 many of the states opened up arms to this pastime, allowing major slot machine providers to set up shop. The windfall this provided the states made the governments as addicted to as the players were. It is estimated that 12% of New South Wales' income is generated from these revenues which are equal to hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

A Booming Industry

Casinos and slots have boomed in the country in the two decades since they were deregulated. Today there are more than 4,000 licensed clubs and casinos. Many are affiliated with local sports teams in soccer and rugby, and the "pokies" can be found everywhere, from cinemas to the local pub to golf courses. Braybook, a low-income suburb of Melbourne, has an average spend of $3,000 per person per year. Large centers filled with slot machines are found in every major city- and some even provide daycare for children.

Reform Attempts

The problems associated with out of control Australia gambling addiction are fueling calls for reform. Several attempts to change the laws have be made, like a requirement to separate the daycares from the slots floor, but almost all of these have failed to pass the legislative procedures. One of the more ambitious attempts at reform was a bill by MP Andrew Wilkie that would require players to establish limits on electronic playing cards. Once a player had reached their limit, the card would be unusable for 24 hours. High-profile lobbying by the industry and a sudden by-election win for Prime-Minister Julia Gillard's Labour Party resulted in the bill's defeat.

In Defense of Pokies

The body that represents the industry, Clubs Australia, downplays addiction. "We are a nation of gamblers" their spokesperson Jeremy Bath said. "Over 10 million people choose to be a member - people are voting with their feet". Whether or not such spending is innocent remains to be seen, but what can't be denied is that, with billions of dollars lost every year, Australia gambling addiction is truly a problem, and the government is just as hooked on the activity as the players.