Originally published on Crikey (11/8/2015)
Australians are being persuaded by a flashy jingling monster.
Our love affair with poker machines has reached new heights as surveys reveal Australians spend more on the pokies than any other nation.
But what is driving this addiction? And why do we hand over our money when we all seem to know the odds are stacked against us?
Let’s start with the facts:
It may be no secret that Aussies love a punt, but when compared worldwide, Australia ranks number 1 in money spent on gambling per capita. But what may surprise some is where that money is going.
In 2014, we spent $12 billion on slot machines, more than half of our total money spent on gambling.
In fact, the pokies smash every other type of Aussie gambling. For every dollar we spend at the races, five were eaten by pokies.
And why not? We have so many poker machines in the country, again, we are ranked higher than any other developed nation for poker machines per capita.
Unfortunately luck isn’t on your side, as winning the $5000 prize on any standard machine is in 9,765,625 to one.
You’ve got a better chance at winning a million dollar first division prize in Lotto (8,145,060) and much better chance of getting struck by lightning (1,603,250).
But the game can be dangerous, and addictive.
Whilst most gambling can be enjoyed without concern, the harms that can be associated with gambling are experienced by many people and to varying degrees. Yet for some — so-called ‘problem gamblers’ — those harms are more intense and damaging to themselves and those around them.
As it turns out, pokies are the most common cause of gambling addiction with approximately 90,000 problem gamblers (80% of all problem gamblers) making up forty percent of the total revenue that flows into the machines.
The cost to the community of problem gambling is high. It takes an enormous toll on families and imposes social costs of an estimated four point seven billion dollars on the nation every year.
Since the Howard government, a number of state imposed policies have been introduced to limit and restrict the amount of money that is spend at the pokies. This includes maximum bet limits, gameplay frequency and minimum returns.
Whatever the solution, the facts don’t lie. Australia has a pokies problem, and we’re going to need one hell of a jackpot to get out of it.