Australia’s Gambling Addiction
“Pokies” are digital slot machines that have made their way into the lives of many Australians. Currently, many pokies allow gamblers to lose up to $1,500 in an hour, and the gambling problem in Australia is spiralling out of control.
Each year Australians lose more money gambling than anyone else in the world. The average Aussie loses $1,144 per year, but amongst problem gamblers this average jumps to an astonishing $21,000 in losses every year. Australia also has the world’s highest rate of people placing bets with almost 80% of the population gambling at some point throughout the year. Gambling remains a fun pastime for many, but more and more Australians are suffering with gambling addiction and the losses always outweigh the gains.
While there are numerous options for betting, “pokies” are an Australian favourite. These digital slot machines are entertainment in almost every pub, and make the process of betting, then seeing the results, practically instantaneous. Pokies are especially appealing to a digital generation where instant gratification via technology has become the norm. It is not middle-aged men gambling away their free time– young people aged 18-24 years old are gambling the most, and are most at risk for developing a serious gambling addiction.
The fact that gambling is addictive and can become more than a pastime is not a widespread message. Australia lacks significant media and marketing promoting responsible gambling and offering help for gambling addiction. Almost all of those in Australia with a gambling problem use pokies to gamble regularly, but serious economic and political barriers are thwarting the country’s attempt to minimise harm attributed to compulsive gambling.
Australia’s growing gambling industry has not only fuelled an epidemic of gambling addiction, but also has the government dependent on its revenue. Despite efforts, regulation and restrictions for poker machines have faced a losing battle. Senator Nick Xenophon recently lobbied to set maximum hourly losses on pokies at $120. Currently many pokies allow gamblers to lose up to $1,500 in an hour. Substantial losses such as this are easier than you can imagine for someone who cannot control the urge to gamble. Other efforts have been made to mandate pre-commitment on pokies, where gamblers must commit to how much they are willing to lose and are locked out of the machine once they have lost their limit. So far no new regulations have been passed due to financial pressure and push back from the hospitality industry.
The Australian Medical Association acknowledges the significant problems related to compulsive gambling and relates gambling addiction to the availability and marketing of gambling activities. Australia certainly isn’t lacking access to gambling options—New South Wales has the second most poker machines of any state in the world only after Nevada, USA.
Gambling addiction – like other addictions – affects all aspects of your life, mental, physical and social. Those with a gambling addiction spend considerable time and money gambling and cannot resist the urge to gamble despite growing negative consequences. Often gambling addiction co-occurs with other addictions or mental health disorders. Also the problems associated with gambling addiction are not limited to the gambler himself—family, friends, and co-workers also suffer as 5-10 people are directly affected by someone with gambling addiction.
Of compulsive gamblers in Australia currently only 15% seek help, but gambling addiction can be overcome with treatment. At The Cabin we successfully help clients from around the world beat their gambling addiction. If you or someone you know needs help with compulsive gambling contact us today.