Australia Still Dealing with Gambling Addiction

Over the past year, we’ve discussed how Australians have been gambling heavily on video games. But according to recent figures, video games aren’t the only things that Aussies are betting big on.

Last year, Australians lost a combined $17.5 billion on casino games, or $949 per adult. This is the largest per capita gambling loss figure in the world.

Commonly known for their large array of deadly animals — including the deadly snake that got into an Australian casino — this country is just as quickly becoming famous for its gambling losses.

Over half of the losses came through slot and video poker machines, which have proven enticing to gamblers from any country due to the graphics, music, and big jackpots.

In Australia, the problem seems especially bad because, out of the country’s 23.1 million residents, an estimated 600,000 play video slot machines every week.

According to the New York Times, one problem that Aussies might be experiencing on slot machines is getting into “the zone,” where they mindlessly spin the reels just to keep going.

“The point is to stay in a zone,” writes the anthropologist Natasha Schüll in her work Addiction by Design. “Their aim is not to win but simply to continue.”

Another problem that Australia may specifically be suffering from is the industry’s highly organized lobbying campaign, combined with a pliant government.

The lobbying seems to be working because the federal government is currently exploring online gambling. If legalized, this would provide yet another avenue for the country’s residents to gamble through PCs, smartphones, and tablets.

Given that gambling taxes brought in $3.65 billion for Australian state governments, it’s unlikely that the phenomenon will stop any time soon in the Land Down Under. The government’s involvement is even more intense now that politicians are filling state coffers to balance their budgets.

The New York Times proposes that the activity could be curbed by imposing stricter limits on how much Australians can lose. Currently, they can lose up to AU$1,200 (US$890) before being cut off from playing. But the Times would like to see an AU$120 limit placed on video machine gambling.

Reforms could be hastened depending upon how a current lawsuit by the firm Maurice Blackburn turns out. The law firm is suing a Melbourne casino and slots manufacturer over their alleged misleading and deceptive practices. Specifically, casinos are believed to trick players into thinking that they have better odds of winning in slots through the use of partial payouts, loud sound effects, and blinking lights.

But even if these reforms are enacted, it’s unlikely that Aussies will curb their record-per capita gambling any time soon. But with the average adult losing $949 through gambling every year, it’s clear that something must be done.