Poker machines

The Pokies as they are informally known first became legal in New South Wales in 1956. The remaining states and territories apart from Western Australia where pokies are banned unless they’re in a casino.

At the last count, there were 196,600 poker machines in Australia with over 95,000 in New South Wales alone. By comparison, Canada has 97,161across the whole country, and New Zealand 16,440.

There are more poker machines per capita in Australia (one machine for every 114 people) of all countries in the world excluding gambling destinations like the principality of Monaco, and the independent city-state of Macau, north of Hong Kong. 

The poker machines in hotels and clubs gained $11 billion revenue from Aussies in 2013–14, and casinos accounted for an estimated $1.5 billion.

Australians spend more on poker machines than other nations at US $1100 per capita. In Canada and Britain, the average spend per person is approximately $500 in the US and $600 in New Zealand.  In 2013-2014, 5% of state levied tax revenue came from the poker machines in hotels and clubs, amounting to A$3.2 billion.

Living close to poker machines could result in a higher probability of gambling problems. The poker machines are concentrated in the less advantaged suburbs where on average adults can lose over A$2000 per annum.

In the more affluent suburbs, people are less likely to play, and the average loss is around A$270 per annum. The Productivity Commission estimated in 2010 that Australia had about 115,000 problem gamblers, and it is these people who account for 40% of the losses.

Should there be tighter regulations surrounding poker machines?