Pokies Aplenty in Australia

Here’s a trivia question for you. Which country in the world has the most slot machines-per-person? The answer is Australia but that may well not be the case soon if campaigners get their way.

Australians love to call slot machines by the name pokies. While the country is home to just 0.3 per cent of the world’ population, it’s a different story when it comes to pokies. They have 20 per cent of the total machines in the world.

What most upsets critics of pokies is that 80 per cent of those in Australia are to be found away from casinos. Pubs and clubs have plenty of them and there have been calls by the Green Party in New South Wales for them to be banned. They see that as a key move to make to curb a growing gambling addiction rate.

Calls for a ban are nothing new. Three years ago, the Greens released a ‘People before Pokies’ plan. They were talking about spending $7billion on phasing out the pokies over a ten-year period with support packages being made available for both communities and clubs.

That hasn’t happened though, and the machines can still be seen in plenty of venues. Another worrying statistic for Australia is that on average adults lose $1,000 when gambling. 2021 saw figures releases that showed the number of Australians with a gambling problem rising to 1 per cent. That means the figure has doubled over a ten-year period.

While politicians are upset over such figures, it puts them in an awkward situation due to the billions of dollars gambling generates for state governments. Not just that, gambling companies also donate huge amounts to the main political parties in Australia. It’s a case of do you bite the hand that feeds you? The gaming commissioner in New South Wales was keen to introduce measures that would have protected gamblers in the state. Soon after, he lost his job!

There had been plans to introduce cashless gaming cards. This would also stop the pokie machines being used for money laundering purposes. Gamblers would ned to register and then pre-load money onto their cards. However, the gaming minister Kevin Anderson prefers using digital payments to cut the numbers suffering gambling problems.

This year saw a fine of over $100,000 issued to the Rose and Crown Hotel in Sydney. It was found that the managers and a security guard were giving out cash loans, free alcohol and cigarettes to help those playing their pokies to continue doing so.

The number of pokies doesn’t look like declining anytime soon. Perhaps until the links between political parties and the gambling industry are reduced, it’ll never happen.