Australia’s $218b Gambling Addiction
Canberra, we have a problem
“Gambling is a disease of barbarians superficially civilized.”
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What do Aussie blokes love? We’re all about beers, BBQs, beaches, and a range of other ‘B’ words best left to the imagination. But what about our betting addiction?
In 2015, 6.8 million or 39% of Australian adults gambled in a typical month1. Of those 6.8 million, the average expenditure (AKA losses) per person in the previous year was an estimated $1,272. We hold the title for the highest per capita spend on gambling in the world. Not something to be proud of I reckon.
Now personally, I don’t mind gambling. To be honest, I love the idea of gambling.
But gambling is fun until it’s not. It’s a slippery slope into addiction that I believe that the betting companies encourage and prey on.
Australia in a way can be very similar to the US. So with their somewhat recent laws allowing sports betting there and the business absolutely booming there, I think I can show a potential outcome of what to expect.
So I don’t actually mind the punt. I love the thoughtful challenge of it. Being able to have a belief and putting your money where your mouth is to back that belief I think is a great thing. In Annie Duke’s book, Thinking in Bets, she talks about how making a bet forces us to think about the potential outcomes and the chances of that happening. I love that aspect.
I think the gambling problem mostly lies with betting companies. I’d argue they encourage gambling addiction. And don’t even get me started on their refusal to pay out bets when they set the wrong odds. Or when they shut down successful accounts. Or their incessant, obnoxious advertising.
But as much as I hate them, can I really blame them? It’s just a case of incentives driving their behaviour. It’s in the betting companies' interest for you to bet irresponsibly. The more you bet and lose, the more they make.
“Show me the incentive and I will show you the outcome.”
Gambling by the Numbers in Australia
On a per-person basis, Australia is the gambling capital of the world. Other large gamblers on a per capita basis are Singapore close behind, then Ireland, Finland and the US. I’m betting the USA catches up to us fast though.
Let’s talk about some of Australia’s gambling numbers. These numbers look like me on a Sunday morning after a big night, which is very rough and not pretty.
Now admittedly these are averages. So anyone that knows anything about averages is gonna realise that some big fish losers obviously ruin it for the rest of us. But our average spend still blows most countries out of the water. I’d kill for some median data but alas this is all we have to work with.
Ok so first we’ll look at gambling expenditure (AKA Losses), per person. Then look at turnover (total spend) after.
$64.13 per person is lost just on sports betting yearly. $184.16 is spent on Racing (Horses, Greyhounds etc. And gaming? $1,043.95! Gaming includes sources such as Lotto ($96.22), Casinos ($264.84) and gaming machines like the pokies ($650.10). Total all gambling per person expenditure every year? $1,292.25. For a grand total of $24 billion as a country each year. yikes
Now let’s look at the insane gambling turnover (or overall amount spent) per capita. An easy way to think about turnover is I put $100 in my account, put a bet on at $2 odds, win the bet, have $200 in my account then place that all on a donkey which comes dead last, lose that $200, my turnover would be $300 because that’s how much money in bets I’ve placed. Hold on to your butts.
$602.86 per person is turned over yearly on sports betting. $1,339.68 on Racing. Gaming turnover? Nine thousand, four hundred and nineteen dollars and twenty-two cents! $9,419.22! Gaming includes sources such as Lotto ($237.62), Casinos ($1,310.25) and gaming machines ($7,764.33).
The Gaming machines’ numbers are honestly depressing. Blow up the pokies. But all up, it gives us a grand total of $11,361.77 turnover each year on gambling per person on average.
Total turnover as a country each year? 218 billion.
As mentioned the average per capita gambling expenditure for 2017-18 was $1,292.25. But how has this number changed over the years? In 1992-93 it was $458.06. Then $996.38 in 2000-01.
Fair to say we have a problem.
Gambling and Culture
It plays a large role in our culture. It’s honestly a large portion of what my mates talk about. Try to watch a footy game without seeing anything gambling related. It is everywhere.
In 2016 on average there were 374 gambling ads daily! Even more insane, is there are five times the amount of gambling advertisements compared to alcohol ads. Take that for data.
But kids don’t see them right? Wrong. Two-thirds of these ads were between 6 am and 830 pm. Not exactly exempt from kids' eyes. Also on the official AFL’s tipping website it automatically fills out your tips and turns them into a multi bet for you!?
And tipping isn’t something that’s only limited to adults. So it’s honestly a joke how perverse gambling advertising and displaying odds are.
Thankfully in 2018, restrictions were introduced that stated gambling ads cannot be played during live sporting events broadcast between 5 am and 8:30 pm, plus five minutes before and after the event. Yet the parasite punting companies worked around this rule.
You honestly can’t escape it. Imagine it’s Tuesday night Parmi2 night so ya going down to the pub for a feed and to watch the footy? Strong chance there are TAB machines there. Total gaming machines in Australia at the end of 2019 was 194,322. Almost 1 machine per 100 adults in Australia.
I thank my lucky stars I don’t have a gambling addiction because it’s honestly so hard to escape it. Below is a satirical video (yet pretty bloody accurate) on the kind of shit we have to put up with here.
I’m not even sure how to wrap this whole topic up because things don’t seem to be changing and it’s been getting worse. The Australian government doesn’t seem to be in any great rush to make any changes either, as roughly $1 billion in taxes are paid by wagering service providers each year, I would bet that's a revenue stream they don’t want to give up. And Sports betting companies have threatened to abandon the Northern Territory if taxes were increased3. So what to do?
I’m not calling for gambling to be banned, but does it need to be advertised so heavily? If people want to gamble, they will.
It’s just as destructive as cigarettes and alcohol, so it makes no sense that these companies enjoy the spoils of poor regulations regarding the advertising of their product.
I guess the government has a gambling addiction of their own.
You can find previous posts here. I also interview legends at Compounding Curiosity and lurk on Twitter @scarrottkalani.
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parmi not parma, bite me.