Gambling is big business in Australia and much like many other nations around the world it continues to thrive thanks to millions of players trying their luck both in land-based and online casinos.
The latter has had a major impact on how we can now experience almost all our favourite casino games, especially due to the continued explosion of the mobile market as well as VR.
Aussies are no strangers to the world of gambling and if recent numbers are anything to go by the government may be looking to tighten up their regulations and put even more effective restrictions on the industry before it gets too out of hand.
Whilst the country's original 2001 Interactive Gambling Act aimed to help limit the harmful effects that gambling was having on the Australian public it took another 16 years before some major loopholes were finally closed off.
Towards the end of last year the Interactive Gambling Bill amendment came into power. The Australian government had finally implemented a number of alterations to the original act in order to better serve its citizens by helping to protect potential patrons from playing on offshore online casinos and offshore online poker sites without proper licenses.
It was a major change for players in the country whom up to that time were regularly enjoying the vast array of overseas gaming operators. In effect it has almost entirely limited online casinos and other interactive gambling efforts outside of Australia.
Between 2014 and 2015 the Australian public were accountable for over $22 billion in overall losses, which equated to around $1241 per adult, a 6% increase from that of the previous year.
$11.59 billion of that massive total, more than half the amount, was actually lost on pokies and other electronic gaming machines further proving that this range of virtual slot-based casino games is still as popular as ever with Australian players.
These figures are astonishing but not surprising and it's no wonder that the government have been so keen and vocal for some time about swiftly bringing in these new changes.
Topping lists of being the biggest gamblers in the world per capita is nothing to shout about and these gambling reforms are one last attempt to help curb these gambling habits. Other plans to limit maximum bets placed online as well as pushing for more stringent restrictions for gambling advertising on television may be the next logical steps but for now it's the figures that make for worrying reading.
One figure that is quite concerning is one provided by the Hilda Survey (The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia) which surveys all households across Australia.
A few months back the survey revealed that nearly 200,000 people across the country were actually struggling with problem gambling and their addiction to online gambling in particular.
Interestingly it was the middle-aged and older aged groups such as those 55 years and older that were suffering with these types of problems and spending the most on gambling.
Whilst scratchies and pokies were two of the most common places where people were spending their money it was in fact the national lotto and other lottery-based games that was seeing the biggest interest and by some margin, at least according to the survey.
Lotto or lottery games have been accounting for around 30% compared to other types of gambling such as sports betting, bingo and even poker.
But that doesn't tell half the story when in fact it was other gambling types that were seeing a greater monthly expenditure. In terms of average spend it was poker, the pokies, sports betting and general casino table games, such as roulette and blackjack, where the money has been being spent.
The issue of problem gambling is prevalent in Australia and this survey does appear to support these claims. It seems that it currently affects around 1.5% of men and just 0.8% of women and whilst this may appear to be a very small percentage it does, as previously stated, account for around 200,000 people living down under.
Sports’ betting, in particular, has grown exponentially over the past couple of years and it’s a growth that can be greatly attributed to more and more advertising campaigns in print and on television as well as of course the rise of smartphones and the general mobile market. It’s a growing market that just doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
Pokies are of course the main offender when it comes to gambling losses but certain areas of sports betting such as racing in particular currently stands at almost $3 billion, which is still a huge figure and it looks set to continue to grow year on year.
South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon stated that it’s a disturbing trend. “..Sports betting is going at such a rate that it's going to leave big scars on our social landscape” he said. “It's actually damaging a whole generation of young Australians."
"If you want to tackle sports betting you need to ban credit betting, you need to make it much more difficult for the sports betting industry to advertise during G-rated times," said Xenophon.
It’s concerning for many young people up and down the country. There are many desperate calls for the laws and regulations to change once more and for the government and other reputable bodies to make necessary changes to help protect the Australian public from slipping into trouble and feeling both the financial and emotional effects of damaging problem gambling.
Reform will certainly go a long way in changing the way in which gambling is dealt with in Australia in a much more controlled manner.
It will be difficult and especially as non-reputable operators around the world will now be looking to seek out desperate Aussies looking to continue gambling online outside of these new regulations. Putting suitable restrictions like this in place will go a long way in helping problem gamblers but is it really enough?
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