People all over the world have a real love-hate relationship with gambling. However, in Australia, you will find that even more often, there is nothing but love for all of gambling's many forms. According to recent statistics, over 80% of all Australian adults are engaged in some form of gambling. This gives Australia the highest rate of gambling in the world by a considerable margin.
Which of course trigger the obvious question – why? What is it about gambling that seems to resonate so heavily with Australians, above and beyond every other country on Earth? Something in the water? Money to burn?
The answer…well, it’s a subject of heavy debate to say the least, but the vast majority believe it to simply be something of a natural progression. Recent generations have been gambling more and more, passing the trend onto the next generation and so on. It’s largely the same tale in a lot of nations globally – what with online gambling having taken over as the new standard for millions. It’s just that Australia seems to be embracing all that’s available with way more gusto than the rest of us.
As far as many of those working in the industry itself are concerned, there’s a very clear and quite simple answer as to why gambling activity spikes in Australia as it is doing right now. Speak to those who’ve been working on the scene for five decades or so and chances are they’ll tell you that gambling interest in Australia is directly linked with the economy. If there’s an improvement to the country’s economy, gambling activity takes a significant step up. When the economy performs poor, it goes the other way.
Nevertheless, even these industry veterans firmly believe that gambling has become such a normal and integral part of the Australian way of life, it will continue regardless. Even when times are tight, folk seem insistent on keeping at least a little cash to one side to use for gambling purposes.
Things you should know about Australia’s love affair with pokies:
- 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.
- 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.
- Poker machines have minted a select few super rich, such as James Packer (net worth A$6,080 million), Len Ainsworth (net worth A$1,840 million), Bruce Mathieson (net worth A$1,160 million), Arthur Laundy (net worth A$310 million) and the Farrell family (net worth A$275 million).
- Poker machines are concentrated in Australia’s poorest suburbs. In Western Sydney’s relatively impoverished Fairfield, each adult lost an average of A$2340 on the pokies in 2010-11; in wealthy Ku-ring-gai and Willoughby, poker machine losses were just A$270 per adult.
- Around 30% of people who play poker machines weekly are problem gamblers or are “at risk” of becoming problem gamblers. In WA, where poker machines are only allowed inside the casino, the rate of problem gambling is one-third of that in the rest of the country.
- Poker machine reform is popular in Australia: 70% of people agree that gambling should be more tightly controlled and 74% agree that people should be limited to spending an amount they nominate before they start gambling.
Of course, it’s important to remember that Australia’s love of gambling doesn’t only form part of its culture, but also a huge part of the country’s economy too. At the most recent check, the industry generated well over $25 billion in annual revenues, increasing no less than 75% since the 80s. While the country’s real-life casino industry creates a hefty 20,000+ jobs, when you take into account the other places with gambling facilities this increases to a massive 60,000 jobs. What’s more, it’s estimated that since the last estimate was pulled together, this could have increased once again by another 30%.
While it’s inevitable that gambling will always attract criticism and can indeed prove problematic for some, it is nonetheless a billion-dollar industry that isn’t going anywhere in the near future. Opinions will always vary, but the truth of the matter is that Australia’s obsession with gambling is something that should be made the most of for all involved – not exploited, not ignored and not instantly labelled a danger to the public.
See ya Later!
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