The dark side of gambling in Australia has been thrown back into the spotlight as many call for pokies to be removed from pubs and clubs.
Michael Miller, the Australian correspondent for the Washington Post, this week published a piece detailing the impact pokies have had on countless Australians.
He said he was shocked upon moving to Sydney to see slot machines in most pubs and clubs – not just in casinos.
‘In much of the world, slots are confined largely to casinos. But in Australia, pokies – as the machines are called here – are everywhere,’ he said.
The NSW Greens party has led calls to abolish the gambling machines altogether.
The dark side of gambling in Australia has been thrown back into the spotlight as many call for pokies to be removed from pubs and clubs
‘NSW is addicted to poker machines,’ the party said upon releasing their ‘People Before Pokies’ plan in 2019.
‘NSW loses more money per person to gambling than any other jurisdiction in the world, has over half of Australia’s poker machines and is second only to Las Vegas when it comes to machine numbers.’
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The party devised an eight-step plan to slowly eradicate slot machines from the pubs and clubs where gamblers can spend all day without stopping trying to win big.
The Greens hoped to introduce a $7billion transition package to phase pokies out of society.
‘Pokies in pubs will be phased out over five years and pokies in clubs will be phased out over 10 years with a support package for clubs and communities,’ the plan said.
Councils would also have the right to cap the number of machines set up in pubs in the area under the plan.
Advertising of gambling on public transport and in sport would also be scrapped under the Greens’ initiative.
Their stance on the issue was echoed by former Deputy Leader of the NSW Science Party – now known as Fusion Party – James Jansson.
In 2019 Mr Jansson detailed his dreams of abolishing pokies in NSW by this year.
Previous statistics showed that Australia had more pokies per person than anywhere else in the world, except for in resort towns like Monaco and Aruba
‘For 에그벳 too long, state governments under both Labor and Liberal have been addicted to pokies revenue, so they can say that the trains run on time,’ he said.
‘Problem gambling is taking the food off the table of families around the state, unnecessarily harming people from all walks of life.’
Previous statistics showed that Australia had more pokies per person than anywhere else in the world, except for casino-tourist locations like Monaco and Macau.
Mr Miller said upon moving to Sydney last year and heading out for dinner at the local pub, he was ‘struck by the sight of a room full of slot machines’.
‘They’re in thousands of hotels and pubs, in big cities & small towns. They’ve transformed neighbourhood social clubs into gambling palaces.
‘In many cities, it’s hard to walk more than a few blocks without encountering a ‘VIP Room’ or ‘VIP Lounge.’
Western Australia only allows pokies in its Crown Casino in Perth (pictured) but the machines are not accessible in pubs and clubs
Michael Miller, the Australian correspondent for the Washington Post, said he was shocked to see there were so many pokie machines in Sydney pubs
Mr Miller was so taken back by the nation’s gambling problem that he wrote an article titled: ‘In Australia, slot machines are everywhere. So is gambling addiction,’ for the Washington Post.
It reveals that Australia is only home to 0.3 per cent of the world’s population, but 20 per cent of its pokies.
He also highlights a damning statistic that Australia leads the planet with an average $1,000 in gambling losses per adult per year.
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In his article, Mr Miller reveals there’s little political will to do much about Australia’s pokie problem because the gambling industry generates so much income for state governments.
‘The gambling industry donates millions of dollars to the major political parties and pays billions in taxes to states and territories,’ he explained.
However he warned that lack of action about the problem is causing horrific consequences for the nation’s gambling addicts.
‘I’m not the first to write about the gambling industry Down Under, including political influence that opponents liken to the American gun lobby. The industry pays billions in taxes, and supporters say pokies are legal, regulated and enjoyed responsibly by millions of Australians.
Pokies are available at most pubs and clubs in NSW
‘But I wanted to show the personal impact of having a de facto ‘casino on your doorstep.’ I heard a burly man choke up as he recounted stealing from his kids’ piggy bank to fuel his habit. I saw a woman who’d turned to pokies to escape trauma struggle to avoid catastrophe.
‘I watched a mother at wit’s end try to save her addicted son. And I saw a suicide go from a rallying cry for reform to another example of inaction.’
According to a recent study from Gambling Research from last year, the number of Australians with a gambling problem has doubled over 10 years to more than 1 per cent.
There are more than 190,000 electronic gambling machines in Australia – more per capita than almost any other major jurisdiction, aside from Nevada, data from 2019 shows.
The spotlight on Australia’s gambling problem comes after the NSW Government hinted at plans to drop a controversial cashless gaming card proposal that was supposed to help solve the issue.
The card policy was intended to stop problem gamblers and criminals using pokie machines to launder money.
Under the plan devised by former gaming minister Victor Dominello, gamblers would have to register and pre-load money to the card.
However current gaming minister Kevin Anderson, who took over the portfolio in December, is set to ditch the idea but says he is still in favour of using digital payments to reduce problem gambling.
Earlier this year the Rose and Crown Hotel in Parramatta in Sydney was fined more than $100,000 after managers and even a security guard loaned cash to help pokie users keep gambling.
Staff gave gamblers free booze and cigarettes, loaned cash from the pub’s safe to them and allowed punters to make at least $145,000 in credit and debit withdrawals from the eftpos machine.
In 2018, 45-year-old Gary Van Duinen took his own life after a 13-hour pokies session in a Sydney RSL.
Western Australia only allows pokies in its Crown Casino in Perth but the machines are not accessible in pubs and clubs.
Mr Miller said in many Australian cities, it’s hard to walk more than a few blocks without encountering a pokie room