Gambling Harm Regulator Needed as Australians Lose $7.7B on Poker Machines

Research on poker machine losses across Australia conducted at Monash University has raised serious concerns about the control over the harm caused by gambling machines in Australia with various experts and activists raising their voices to demand a nationwide gambling harm regulator.

Australians Have Squandered AUD 11.4 Billion on Pokies

Australian media outlet The Age reported that during the financial year 2021-2022 AUD 11.4 billion ($7.7 billion) were gambled away on so-called pokies or poker machines in Australia.

These figures come from a study made by Monash University’s Gambling and Social Determinants Unit covering only the slot machines in pubs and clubs and not casinos. The study includes all territories except for Western Australia where it is not allowed to have slot machines at pubs and clubs.

Monash University based its research on information about profits from slot machines in pubs and clubs for the financial year 2021-2022. The study also used surveys that helped determine the number of poker machine players in each Australian province.

The Highest Poker Machine Losses Were in New South Wales

The Monash analysis showed varying results in the different territories in Australia. Although the trend across all provinces was that regional areas suffered the highest losses per capita.

The total losses in Victoria from pokies for the financial year 2021-2022 amounted to AUD 2.2 billion ($1.5 billion), while the average losses per poker machine player were AUD 2822 ($1915). If the losses are divided per Victorian resident that means an average of AUD 437 ($297) per capita. According to the analysis, the largest amount of losses per resident was in Benalla and equaled AUD 1017 ($690), closely followed by Central Goldfields shire with AUD 839 ($570).

New South Wales was the leading province in terms of average losses per poker machine player which amounted to a whopping AUD 4525 ($3070).

Experts Call for a National Gambling Harm Regulator

Despite the raging cost-of-living crisis poker machines are becoming more and more popular. Australians use them as stress relievers or see them as a possibility to earn some cash to help them pay the rent or other expenses.

At the same time research on domestic violence shows that 25% of it stems from gambling losses with some of them directly associated with slot machines at pubs and clubs.

The calls for a national gambling harm regulator started already in January with Financial Counselling Australia and Suicide Prevention Australia highlighting that the fragmented state and federal watchdogs across Australia provided a fragmented approach, which only crippled the protection of players.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform’s chief advocate Tim Costello also urged for a nationwide regulator that can address the consequences of gambling in terms of financial, social, and health issues.

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