According to data from 2017, Australians have the highest rates of gambling losses per adult in the world. This results in a loss of $1277 per year on gambling for the average Australian. When focusing on just those who actually gamble on a regular basis (estimated to be 35% of Australian adults who engage in gambling at least once a month), this loss becomes over $3000 per gambler per year. Australia as a whole spent $225 billion on gambling in 2018 to 2019, with more than 80% of this spent on pokies and casino gaming.
Compared to all other forms of gambling, such as lotteries or sports betting, pokies are regarded as the most profitable for operators and most damaging for gamblers. Their ubiquity has been highlighted as a key reason for their popularity with Angela Rintoul, a research fellow at the Australian Gambling Research Centre, highlighting this as a uniquely Australian problem:
“What makes Australia unique is that we’ve allowed these machines to be embedded in our local communities...We haven’t contained them just to casinos, where many jurisdictions in the world have.”
Rev Tim Costello, Chief Advocate for Alliance for Gambling Reform, spoke on the significant detriment to Australians and society caused by gambling in 2019:
“Gambling harm encompasses everything from the loss of homes and relationships to the loss of lives through deaths by suicide associated with gambling harm...There are direct connections in some instances between gambling harm and family violence and mental ill-health...When you consider for every person directly experiencing gambling harm it is estimated at least six more people connected to those people experience some impact, we are talking about an issue that affects an extraordinary number of Australians.”