Posted on: September 5, 2022, 07:24h. 

Last updated on: September 5, 2022, 09:18h.

Slot machines in Australia have always been a popular topic of debate. New research that shows Australians lost AU$11.4 billion (US$7.73 billion) in a single year playing them will only intensify that debate.

Slot machine
A gambler plays the “50 Lions” slot machine. Slots are once again coming under fire in Australia following a report of the amount of money gamblers lost playing them. (Image: AAP)

Monash University’s Gambling and Social Determinants Unit conducted the study, focusing on slot machines, or what the Aussies call pokies, in clubs, bars, and other locations. What it didn’t look at were those casinos in the country offer.

What it found was that more than 3.3 million people used pokies in Queensland, New South Wales (NSW), South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania last year and so far this year. Their average losses of AU$3,429 (US$2,323) now have gambling opponents calling for a permanent gambling harm regulator.

Pokie Popularity Down Under

The results are good for the government and slot operators, as they show the potential for significant revenue. They’re also good for anti-gambling groups, since they give these more ammunition to fight for control over how consumers spend their money.

Tim Costello of the Alliance for Gambling Reform highlighted the study in a renewed call for more government intervention. CPA Australia, however, asserted in a report last year that just “170,000 Australian adults experience problems due to gambling addiction.” This only equates to roughly 0.006% of the entire population.

In Victoria, consumers lost over AU$2.2 billion (US$1.5 billion) in the research period. This is around AU$2,822 (US$1,913) per consumer that used a slot machine. However, there were higher losses in NSW, where consumers presumably gave up AU$5.43 billion (US$3.68 billion).

The only state that didn’t see losses was Western Australia. This is only because it doesn’t have any slots in bars and other non-casino venues.

More Control Over Consumer Spending

Costello is among those at the forefront of a push for a national gambling harm regulator. It’s a concept that works on paper, but probably not so much in real life.

NSW, Victoria, and other states have their own gaming regulators. In fact, money laundering concerns and company mismanagement on the part of Crown Resorts and Star Entertainment forced states to enhance their regulatory efforts.

Victoria now has the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC). It will now consistently take a closer look at all gaming operations. A spokesperson with the government said it will ensure operators comply with strengthened gambling harm regulations.

The same is true in NSW, where the NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) begins its oversight today. It takes over for the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority and told 9News that it promises to be “a lot more vigilant” going forward.

In addition, according to Australia’s Federal Social Services Minister, Amanda Rishworth, the federal government can’t do more. The structure of the current federal gambling legislation in the country prevents the federal government from extending its reach. This is because the law gives the responsibility to the individual states.