Gambling – a public health issue

The annual Australian gambling statistics report compiled by the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office is considered the most comprehensive gambling snapshot in Australia. 

According to the latest report, Australians are the biggest gamblers on earth, losing more than $24 billion in 2017/18. This was a 5% increase on 2016/17. 

If this is averaged out across the 19.75 million Australians over 18 (based on ABS statistics), this is over $12,000 lost on gambling per person. Given how averages work, this means an enormous number of people will be losing thousands and thousands of dollars to the gambling industry each year.

One explanation put forward for Australia’s nationwide gambling addiction is that it is a cultural preference: having a punt is one of the mainstays of our national identify.

According to The Monthly “The other explanation for why Australians became the world’s biggest gamblers during the 1990s was that the expansion of gambling was a deliberate government policy choice.” While the reliance of state governments on gambling revenue is well known, The Monthly goes on to say, “A more important factor in sustaining the status quo has been the political power of the gambling industry.” The evidence of this can be seen in the greyhound racing industry where a financially failing industry is propped up with taxpayers’ money.

$3.5 billion was lost on race betting in 2017/18, a 7.1% increase from 2016/2017. A 2017 report by the Australian Gambling Research Centre found that gambling problems are concentrated in the racing sector. It was concluded in the report that nearly one million Australian adults gambled regularly on the races. These adults were twice as likely to experience gambling-related problems as the regular Australian gambler.

Following the release of the Australian gambling statistics report, Reverend Tim Costello, Alliance for Gambling Reform Chief Advocate, said the impact of these disturbingly high losses could no longer be tolerated.

“Gambling harm encompasses everything from the loss of homes and relationships to the loss of lives through deaths by suicide associated with gambling harm. There are direct connections in some instances between gambling harm and family violence and mental ill-health.
Reverend Tim Costello
Alliance for Gambling Reform

Reverend Costello went on to say, “When you consider for every person directly experiencing gambling harm it is estimated at least six more people connected to those people experience some impact, we are talking about an issue that affects an extraordinary number of Australians.”