While gamblers around the world may see slot machines as only one of the various gambling options provided by both land-based and online casinos, slots, or pokies, mean much more to Australians. Since the first pokie machine has appeared in the 50s, in Tasmania, there was always a deep-rooted connection between this game and the Australian players. This connection evolved into a genuine passion over time. I will try to get a plausible explanation to ‘Why Australians love playing pokies so much?’
History of Pokies in Australia
It all started in the early fifties when the first casino opened in Tasmania and offered its players the ‘Clubmaster’ slot machines designed by the ‘Aristocrat’ company. These machines were the classic three-reel slots with a lever on the side and poker cards symbols. Pokie machines that contained fruit symbols were also known as the fruit machines.
Nowadays, Clubmaster machines take their well-deserved spot in various museums, and many of them present valuable collectible items. The name ‘pokies’ stems from the video-poker machines that accompanied slot machines in the original casino offer. Many Australians who were already hooked up on this new kind of lucrative pastime, rushed to pubs and clubs so that they could play pokies.
It is clear now that pokies are not an ordinary casino game to Australians. Pokies depict Australians’ urge to play fast-evolving casino game so they could get the adrenaline rush that they need.
The Australian urge for gambling is closely related to their history when the first settlers put their lives on stake daily. Fighting the hostile environment and overcoming different hardships was an everyday task to them.
Factors That Caused the Growing Popularity of Pokies
What started as an exciting pastime soon turned into a serious obsession — That’s why today, Australians are known as the most prominent pokie players worldwide. There are numerous factors that lead to this, but I will mention only a few of them:
- The appearance of video slots during the 80s announced a new era of gambling. The video gaming machines represented a refreshing novelty on the gambling market, offering more than 3 reels to players, accompanied by the multiple paylines. All these changes promised higher chances of hitting big winnings and urged even more players to rush to pokie machines.
- The legalisation of pokies throughout Australia during the nineties.
The first Australian territory where it was legal to gamble on pokie machines was the New South Wales, in 1956. This situation remained the same until the 90s when most of the Australian local governments decided to make pokie machines legal. Victoria and Queensland were the first to make this move in 1991, with South Australia following in 1992. Additionally, Tasmania legalised pokies in 1997, and the Northern Territory followed suit a year later. Pokies are also legal in Western Australia.
Pokies in Numbers
The main reason for legalising pokies was obviously a lucrative tax revenue from poker machines — Something each local government would be able to collect annually. Unfortunately, this decision backfired quickly by turning players into problem gamblers.
Here are some numbers that clearly show how much Australians adore pokie machines.
- There are almost 197.000 pokie machines in Australia, which means there’s one pokie machine per 114 people. Once you find out that the number of pokies in Canada is around 9.700, you must admit this number seems overwhelming — Especially if you take into consideration the difference in the number of the population between these two countries.
- During the 2013/14, local governments that legalised gambling on pokie machines have collected $3.2 billion in tax revenue. The other side of the coin says that during this period, Australian loss on gambling was $12.5 billion. This is approximately $700 per adult person.
- Australians are also leaders in the percentage of adults that gamble at least once a year. This percentage ranges from 20-30%, while 4% of gamblers in Australia visit casinos once a week. The annual loss of these frequent gamblers may range from $7000 to $8000 roughly.
- 20-30% of weekly gamblers have serious problem gambling or are on the edge of slipping into gambling addiction. The Productivity Commission assessment is that there are over 110.000 problem gamblers in Australia.
- The most concerning thing, however, is the large number of pokie machines in the poor suburbs. This emphasises the fact that most people who gamble cannot afford to lose.
The Bodies and Associations That Fight Compulsive Gambling in Australia
The Productivity Commission is an independent body that helps state governments make better decisions regarding social, economic and environmental issues. This is all so they could improve the quality of living of the entire community. Their measures on preventing the harmful effects of gambling include reducing wagering requirements. Another measure is to make the gamblers set their bankroll before they start gambling — That they would not be able to overstep.
Alliance for gambling reform also advocates responsible gambling. This Alliance counts 60 different organisations with a sole mission to raise awareness of gambling addiction problem. This serious addiction may cause severe problems like job loss or domestic violence. Hence why it is essential that people who suffer from it free themselves of the shame that compulsive gambling causes. They need to speak freely about their problems so that they can eventually break the habit.
This alliance also fights for passing the laws that will ensure responsible gambling throughout the country. These laws would prevent gamblers from falling into the trap of compulsive gambling.
The gambling on pokies reform is getting more and more supporters in Australia. A survey has been conducted on this issue recently. While 70% of people think that gambling controls should be more frequent and thorough, 74% of them think that limiting ones bankroll before gambling will restrain bettors from playing compulsively.
To wrap it up, while I totally understand the admiration Australians have for pokie machines, I have to advocate responsible gambling at the same time. I know that pokies are attractive and shiny games that lure you with million jackpots — I even enjoy a few spins every now and then. However, although a pokie game may seem lucrative and exciting, don’t let it waste your kid’s college funds. Stay cool and play responsibly.