Gambling in Australia. Bigger than you think
Australia is often dubbed the gambling capital of the world
Australians lose more money gambling per person than any other nation in the world, and this is growing nationally 
“It’s an Australian culture thing. Previously this may have been an old person's problem but it’s not anymore”
In 2014-15, Australians lost almost A$23 billion to gambling; up almost 8% from the previous year. Half of these losses are on poker machines. However, sports betting is rapidly growing and is up 30% from the previous year. It is estimated that for 80,000 to 160,000 Australians, gambling leads to financial, family and psychological problems, and sometimes crime and suicide.
Many aspects of Australian culture make gambling seem like a normal part of life. For example, The Melbourne Cup is the ‘race that stops the nation’ and advertisements for gambling are common at sporting venues, on television and on many sports-related applications for mobile devices. Federal elections and other events also garner interest among betters. Gambling is rapidly becoming part of how we define ourselves as consumers.
“Regular gambling...it’s a social thing these days. It goes hand in hand with drinking, especially with young males coming out of the 18-21 age range. We’d go down to the club for a night out...we’d gamble, have a feed, a drink..it all goes hand in hand. ‘Where are we going tonight?’ ‘We’ll go down to the club’…”
If anything, gambling is growing in Australia
Gambling taxes are one of the single largest sources of income for the state and territory governments in Australia. It's estimated that in 2014-15 the government received almost A$5.9 billion from gambling [in taxes]. This is over 10% of total tax revenue for some of the states.
Australia has the most number of poker machines per person of any country in the world (excluding gambling destinations dominated by the casino industry like Macau and Monaco), with one machine for every 114 people. 
The ACT has 4986 machines which is about 1 machine per 80 people
“Nothing could come between my boyfriend and a pokie machine”
It is estimated Australians lose a total of $12 billion a year on pokies. Approximately 75-80% of gambling-related problems are associated with pokies. And those with gambling problems are believed to contribute 40% of the total money lost on poker machines. Research suggests, people who live in poorer areas tend to live closer to poker machine venues and are more likely to experience gambling problems.
“...it’s not a venue that is governed by daylight - there is always a dark corner for someone who is on drugs to be there. It’s comfortable, safe, has free food and drinks, you are left alone...most of the people there have their own problems and issues...”
Sports gambling is rapidly growing in Australia. There was a 30 % increase in money lost on sports betting during 2014-2015, compared to the previous year. It is thought the surge in growth in recent years is due to large-scale marketing and advertising campaigns by online bookies, and the increased usage of smartphones, especially among young people. It is argued that sports betting is predicted to continue to rapidly grow, unless more advertising and regulation is introduced.
“I did do online sports betting for a while, and I did that because I could do it while I was at work. I nipped that in the bud real quick..I didn’t let that one get legs. It was just way too easy. They give you $100 credit and stuff like that. You can transfer from your personal account to your Sportsbet account just like that.”
More people are being exposed to sports gambling from early ages. Researchers from Deakin University have found that children aged 8-16 consider gambling ads a normal part of sport.
“...we not only have children who can name gambling companies, but also can tell us things like bonus bets, cash back refunds, and the very specific creative factors within the advertisements they see,”
Associate Professor Samantha Thomas
References and Links:
- Who wins from “big gambling” in Australia? 2014 https://theconversation.com/who-wins-from-big-gambling-in-australia-22930
- Sports betting losses on the rise as Australians lose almost $23 billion to gambling in past year, 2016
- The high cost of Australia's addiction to 'pokies', 2015 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-33647401
- 15 Things you should know about Australia’s love affair with pokies, 2015
- ACT Gambling and Racing Commission
- Children consider gambling ads a normal part of sport study, 2016 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-15/children-consider-gambling-ads-a-normal-part-of-sport-study/7733696