piled gold coins

Gambling in Australia is a multibillion-dollar industry. And while we are in the midst of spring racing season – it is more evident than ever.

Let’s imagine if the money that is being gambled away was saved instead for the purposes of retirement.

We spend over $18 billion dollars per annum on all forms of gambling.

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This figure equates to $1,500 per annum for every man, woman, and child in the country.

State governments in Australia receive a windfall every year in the form of tax revenue of approximately $5 billion, and the average annual revenue for every pokie (or electronic gaming machine) in Australia is $59,700 – and in 2009 there were a staggering 198,300 machines across the country.

I am sure you will agree the figures are staggering, and what is even more frightening, the average Australian gambles more in a year than the average person in New Zealand, Canada, and the USA combined.

So, why do Australians gamble so much? 

It is certainly exciting and addictive. There is the ‘always-possible’ chance of winning money, and it also a social activity for many. For some it is a much-needed escape from the stress of work and family.

And I have to admit; my once-a-year wager on the Melbourne Cup is a lot of fun.

But for a growing number of people, between 80,000 to 160,000 Australian adults, it is a significant addiction, and continues to be a huge social problem. The estimated social costs of this addiction is $4.7 billion per annum and include consequences like suicide, depression, relationship breakdowns, poor work productivity, job loss, bankruptcy, and even criminal activity to maintain the addiction.

For me – the extent of someone’s addiction was clearly demonstrated when I was working at the Department of Social Security.

A widowed age pensioner who was quite well off and in receipt of a small age pension, slowly but surely depleted her hard earned savings by playing the pokies at her local club and losing in excess of $200,000 over a five-year period. She originally went to the club seeking companionship after her husband passed away.

She certainly did not go there to develop a gambling addiction.

After all the research and reading I have done concerning the problem I now have concerns when I watch sport on television, and find myself confronted by advertisements which allow me to wager on nearly every aspect of the game. And I can do this without even getting out of my chair.

So my question is this: do we currently run the risk of making this problem worse? And with this in mind, increasing the spend required to alleviate this polarising social problem?

Data Source:

Data from Productivity Commission
2010 report on gambling





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