Australians Ask for Reforms amid Concerning Pokies Harm Rates

Australians Ask for Reforms amid Concerning Pokies Harm Rates

Responsible gambling is one of the hot topics of the modern gambling industry as many markets and operators seek to protect players from harm. Australia, according to the BBC, is not doing all that well.

According to the news outlet, about 1 in every 100 Australians has some sort of a gambling problem. Much of the harm is caused by electronic slot machines or poker machines, both known as pokies by locals.

Some of the most vulnerable people sometimes end up in debt, spending thousands on losing bets. A recent estimate by H2 Gambling Capital shows that if gambling losses were averaged over all adult Australians, each of them would lose around $800 (converted to USD) a year.

A Former Addict Spoke with the BBC

BBC spoke with Kate Seselja, a former addict who once lost $336,000 to gambling. She played for 12 years and would sometimes cry when her money ran out. She even contemplated suicide but finally decided against it because she was pregnant with her sixth child at the time.

Seselja said that she had felt “emotionally done” with her existence and wanted to end it all but didn’t want to end her child’s life.

Seselja says that people are always warning others about smoking and alcohol but pokies are rarely mentioned in such conversations. She was introduced to pokies at the age of 18 when she wagered $20 and won hundreds. This made her feel lucky and clever, which is why she continued to play as her addiction worsened.

Eventually, the woman started spending all her money on gambling and even began lying to her family in order to get money for gambling. Luckily, after more than a decade, Seselja managed to overcome her addiction. However, she was but one of many Australians struggling with problem gambling.

Pokies Are Everywhere

One of the biggest problems about pokies is how ubiquitous they are. Despite housing just 0.33% of the world’s population, the country fields a whopping fifth of all pokies. These can be found in casinos, pubs, clubs and even hotels.

Games are often designed to be addictive and to congratulate players even when they are losing money. To make matters worse, pokies are oftentimes concentrated in vulnerable communities. Dr Livingstone from Monash University told the BBC that this is nothing short of exploitation of at-risk people.

While Australia’s Gaming Technologies Association says that the machines are fair and designed with safer gambling in mind. A spokeswoman noted that millions of people enjoy the vertical harm-free. However, Seselja argues that even if not all people experience harm, that doesn’t mean that the game is harmless.

Perrottet Hopes to Reform NSW Gambling

Many people in Australia and New South Wales in particular hope for a change. With elections looming in the Australian state, some hope that the problematic machines will finally be addressed.

Should he get re-elected, Premier Dominic Perrottet promises to introduce spending limits and make all machines cash-free within five years. Despite the favorable pokies tax revenue, Australia cannot continue to benefit from people’s misery, Perrottet says.

However, not all agree with Perrottet and his measures. While certain organizations and reformed addicts such as Seselja have welcomed his proposal, others say that he should instead focus on banning criminals from gaming rooms, instead of forcing everyone to go cashless.

At the same time, ClubsNSW continues to lobby against significant changes in the sector, because of the negative impact they may have on its members. Pressure from the union previously prevented an earlier attempt by MP Andrew Wilkie to introduce gambling reforms.

Wilkie hopes that Perrottet will be able to do better and introduce his reforms in spite of the opposition. However, Seselja is less optimistic about Perrottet’s re-election. She grimly noted that Australia is the number one country in terms of gambling harm and that there is something “profoundly wrong there.”