Explore Pokies’ Impact on Australia

Pokies isn’t just a game in Australia, it has become a big part of the economy. The country’s infatuation with gambling is showcased by the countless pokies machines scattered across the country. Brightly lit & ready to go, these machines churn out billions of dollars. This provides a steady stream of tax revenue, with huge amounts of cash going to the government. Even though this is great news, every industry has it’s dark side.

Australia Experiences the Good & Bad of Pokies

pokies' impact

Gambling fuels the Australian government.

Like many popular activities, pokies has the potential to be abused. For many problematic players, over indulgence while playing pokies machines can be disastrous. Unlike other forms of gambling, pokies machines allow punters to go through cash at lightning speeds. Problem gamblers generate a whopping 40% of gambling revenue. Australians lose more money to gambling than in any other country, with $23 billion dollars being spent a year.

Even though the amount of punters is dwindling, the amount of money being spent continues to grow. In the September quarter alone Aussies bet a record $6.5 billion. This put the average spending at $1000 a year for each Australian. These shocking figures put gambling at a 6.1% growth to $24.1 billion. Despite record numbers, the amount of punters has fallen sharply in the last 15 years. In 2000, every state reported 80% of their residents participated in gambling. Now the number of punters have declined to an average of 64%.

“We’ve seen a drop in participation in gambling on a per-capita basis, but the expenditure on gambling hasn’t dropped,” Australian Gambling Research Centre manager Anna Thomas said. “What we are seeing is a smaller group of people gambling more heavily.”

Some attribute this trend to the rise in addiction, while others attribute it to inflation. Many people point to the huge amount of money generated by pokies machines. In a majority of venues, pokies machines are more lucrative than nightclubs. The average machine generates $56,000 a year, while high end venues in Victoria reportedly made over $200,000 each. A growing number of groups claim that pokies machines promote addiction with catchy software & quick spending rates. While their may be some truth in that, pokies machine producers claim that this is just a reflection of the economy.

“There’s a very simple answer: over the last 62 years that I’ve been in the business each year, every year the amount of money that goes into gambling is directly related to the state of the economy,” Billionaire pokies machine producer Len Ainsworth told Fairfax Media. “If the economy goes up 5 per cent, you can bet the amount gambled will go up by that or even more. As they get more money or shall we say funds that they can spend, they will spend the same proportion of gambling as they do on everything else,” Mr Ainsworth said. “There’s nothing surprising about those numbers going up 6 per cent because I reckon we’ve had at least that much inflation over the period.”

Even though Len Ainsworth made a solid point, it’s still apparent that something has to change. Over 400 Australians commit suicide from gambling related problems every year. But this doesn’t mean it should be banned. It does generate some much needed tax revenue. Statistically speaking, most people enjoy playing pokies without experiencing negative repercussions. The problem is that around 115,000 punters are problem gamblers. We need to find a way to curb addiction without destroying a pastime that so many people love. Unfortunately when so much money is being made there is little motivation for reform.