The Australian state of Victoria’s Alliance for Gambling Reform, a collaborative campaign to reduce gambling harm in the country, calculated that players had lost $66 billion during the past 30 years. The organization used data gathered from the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control and found that Australians currently rank first in average gambling losses at about $1000 per adult per year.
Public Sentiment Is Starting to Turn against Gambling
Unlike the rest of the world, poker machines in Australia do not remain confined to casinos. About 80% of the country’s slots are in clubs and pubs. These lax restrictions led to their rapid spread, and Australia now hosts 18% of the world’s poker machines.
Fortunately, public support for the machines is steadily waning. Major Australian sports clubs have started selling their gambling venues. Likewise, The Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL), a support organization for people who have served or are serving in the Australian Defense Force, is slowly distancing itself from poker machines. According to Lucas Moon, former president of the Hawthorn RSL, slots do not bring any financial benefit and solely cause harm.
The RSL is a charity … but it’s offering a product that we all know harms individuals.Lucas Moon, former president of the Hawthorn RSL
Moon commented that the organization had forgotten its core mission to protect veterans. He shared his observations that poker machines turned young veterans away from getting support, while many developed addictions and spent their entire compensations on gambling.
How to Lose $1 Million on Slots
56-year-old Ian Correia is a case study for Australia’s gambling woes. During his 25-year addiction, the man estimates he spent at least $1 million on Victorian poker machines. He lost his marriage, ruined his relationship with his children, and even attempted suicide.
I gave up access to my kids in preference to gambling.Ian Correia
At one point, Correia realized that he was living in his car and spending 90% of his salary on slot machines. His eldest daughter refused to communicate with him, and he was quickly beset with panic attacks and contemplated suicide. On three occasions, he actually tried.
Fortunately, Correia’s story has a happy ending. He managed to overcome his addiction, salvage the relationship with his children, and now offers support to other victims of gambling addiction.
Reforms Must Overcome Powerful Lobbying Pressure
According to The Alliance for Gambling Reform, cases like Correia’s have become commonplace. Good, law-abiding people end up in jail or take their lives due to the slot machines’ predatory nature. The Alliance demands a maximum bet limit of $1 and banning venues offering 24-hour access.
Despite the Alliance’s best efforts, introducing stricter regulations to Victoria would face strong opposition. The state earned $1.6 billion from gambling taxes in 2021, and politicians face significant lobbying pressure. The Australian Hotels Association, a strong proponent of pubs and slot machines, donated $761,000 during 2019’s elections.