Pixabay Images

Pixabay Images

Data released late last week reveal Australia’s gambling habit is growing as fast as ever. The Australian Gambling Statistics for 2014-15 show adult Australians, on average, lost A$1,242 a year on gambling.

The amount varies dramatically by state: in New South Wales the average loss was $1,518; in Tasmania, $762.

Most gambling expenditure goes on the pokies. Out of a total of $22.7 billion in 2014-15, $11.6 billion (51%) was lost on poker machines in pubs and clubs.

Pokies are far and away the biggest cause of gambling harm. Around 75% or more of those directly experiencing harm from gambling do so because of poker machines. And most people don’t use them.

Gambling harm is becoming more concentrated. A body of evidence now indicates it is concentrated in highly stressed communities, where disadvantage and poverty are turbo-charged by gambling losses.

The growth in sports betting is, to put it mildly, phenomenal. Most worryingly, a body of research is beginning to demonstrate that children are highly exposed to gambling ads. This is because voluntary broadcast advertising rules allow gambling ads during G-rated programming – if it is a sports broadcast.

This loophole defies explanation, other than to acknowledge that gambling ads are now a lucrative source of revenue for broadcasters. Sporting codes get a share via broadcast rights payments, pumped up by the advertising budget of bookies with deep pockets and a desire to grow their market.

– Charles Livingstone

Read more: The Conversation: Gambling Gallops On, Stats Reveal – But What Can Be Done To Curb Its Harms?