Australians Lose $14.5 Billion to Poker Machines Despite Cost of Living Crisis
Despite the ongoing cost of living crisis in Australia, a staggering $14.5 billion was lost to poker machines in the last financial year. New South Wales alone accounted for more than half of this massive sum. It’s important to note that these losses do not include money gambled away on pokies inside casinos or the multi-billion-dollar losses from sports betting and horse and greyhound racing.
The $14.5 billion fed into the machines in pubs and clubs across five states easily surpassed the losses suffered in the previous financial year, which was uninterrupted by COVID-19 restrictions. This alarming data comes from a recent study conducted by the Alliance for Gambling Reform.
Concerns Over Poker Machine Design
Health experts are increasingly worried about the sophisticated mathematics behind poker machines, as they are specifically designed to make people play longer and spend more money. The addictive potential of these machines is a significant concern.
Australia’s Gambling Problem
Despite having less than half a percent of the world’s population, Australia has 20 percent of its poker machines and 80 percent of machines located outside of casinos. The Alliance for Gambling Reform’s data reveals that NSW residents alone lost $8.07 billion to electronic gaming machines (EGMs) in the last financial year, marking a 23.7 percent increase from the previous year. Queenslanders experienced the next highest losses at $3.2 billion, a 33.6 percent increase, followed by Victoria with $3 billion, a 12 percent increase.
The Need for Regulation
Carol Bennett, CEO of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, expressed deep concern over the latest data and emphasized the urgent need for stricter regulation of the industry. She called for measures such as the fast-tracking of mandatory cashless gambling cards to curb the escalating losses. Bennett stated, “These staggering new loss figures show an industry that is out of control. And these figures don’t even count poker machine losses in our casinos. The losses translate into very high levels of harm right across our community, whether it be financial loss, family breakdown, family violence, anxiety, depression, even suicide. It has a big impact in our community and it’s an impact that we need to address.”
The Ripple Effect
The impact of poker machine losses extends beyond personal financial harm. While exact figures are difficult to determine, a report from the NSW Crime Commission estimated that criminals launder billions of dollars each year through these machines. The proceeds of organized crime, including drug trafficking, sex work, human trafficking, and other illicit activities, find their way into the gambling industry.
Post-COVID Rise in Losses
Bennett highlighted the alarming fact that the sharp rise in poker machine losses occurred post-COVID. This suggests that the financial impact of the pandemic has exacerbated the problem across the country. The CEO emphasized that New South Wales, with its 87,000 pokie machines, is at the center of Australia’s gambling problem.
Poker machines were a prominent issue during the NSW election earlier this year. Bennett criticized the new Minns government for moving too slowly and expressed disappointment with their limited trial of cashless gaming cards. The ousted premier, Dominic Perrottet, had planned to make these cards mandatory if he had won the election.
The staggering $14.5 billion lost to poker machines in Australia highlights the urgent need for stricter regulation of the gambling industry. The harmful consequences extend far beyond financial loss, impacting families, mental health, and even contributing to criminal activity. It is crucial that governments take decisive action to address this issue and protect the well-being of their citizens.
According to Carol Bennett, CEO of the Alliance for Gambling Reform: “These staggering new loss figures show an industry that is out of control. And these figures don’t even count poker machine losses in our casinos. The losses translate into very high levels of harm right across our community, whether it be financial loss, family breakdown, family violence, anxiety, depression, even suicide. It has a big impact in our community and it’s an impact that we need to address.”
George Barham, an accomplished journalist and avid gambling enthusiast, serves as the esteemed Editor-in-Chief at fly-to-australia.com, Australia’s leading source for comprehensive gambling news and insights. With an unwavering passion for both the written word and the ever-evolving world of betting and gaming, George brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the helm of our editorial team.