Gambling Addiction Hard to Tame

Australia has a love affair with gambling. Almost 21% percent of the world’s pokies are in Australia.[1] For most people, gambling is a pleasurable activity. Sadly for some, it has become an addiction that they cannot tame.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has stated, “I hate poker machines and I know something of their impact on families.”[2]

Gambling devours their savings and hopes at an astonishing rate. About 80% of Australians gamble, but 40% of these play at least once a week. The majority of them gamble responsibly.

However it is estimated that about 2% of the population, about 330,000 Australians, have severe or moderate problem gambling habits and about 140,000 have severe problems. Of that number, for “about 70 per cent, their major activity is poker machines.”[3]

Australians spend more on gambling than they do on food. In the financial year 2006-2007, we spent almost $91.5 million on food. That’s about $4350 each for the year according to Bureau of Statistics figures.

However, in the previous year, 2005-06, gaming industry figures show that adults spent $148 million on gambling. That’s an average of $9491 each spent on gambling, which includes figures from tourists.[4] That is, we spend 61% more on gambling than we did on food.

How much of this gambling money goes to the venue? “The average actual gaming ‘profit’ (before tax) is about a tenth of turnover.”[5]

For those with a gambling addiction, families suffer the shame of losing their assets, being evicted from housing, and empty food cupboards. Marriages break up. Back in 1999, the Productivity Commission estimated that there are about 1600 gambling-related divorces and 1600 gambling-related separations in Australia annually. [6]

Work, health and emotional issues are sometimes impacted badly by gambling.

One estimate was that for each person who engages in excessive gambling, 5-10 other people around them are affected.[7]

Gambling is an addiction for some that is difficult to tame.

Please don’t under estimate the impact of gambling on suicide thinking and action – especially for the older generation. A recent USA study found that for adults over age 55 who had been gambling an average of 17 years before they sought self-exclusion (banning oneself) from gaming venues, they had a greater risk of suicide. The research indicated that nearly 14 percent of older adults surveyed sought help because they wanted to prevent themselves from committing suicide.[8]

One of the researchers, Lia Nower, said that “this is particularly troubling because, irrespective of age, problem gamblers have reported rates of suicidal ideation and/or attempts as high as six times those found in the general population.”[9]

What can you do to help yourself with taming a gambling addiction? What can you as a family member do to limit the damage done by gambling in your family?


[1] “Russell Crowe rallies against gambling,” China Daily, 2008-01-03, available from: [cited 15 November 2008]. This article is in Appendix A

[2] Ibid.

[3] Maxine McKew, 19 July 1999, 7.30 Report, ABC television Australia, “Productivity Commission exposes poker machine culture,” available from: [15 November 2008].

[4] Peter Jean , June 11, 2008, “Australians spend more on gambling than on food,” Herald Sun¸ available from:,21985,23844130-662,00.html [15 November 2008].

[5] Betty Conn Walker, 2003, “Vilified pokies not the root of all evil,” Sydney Morning Herald, November 20, available from: [15 November 2003].

[6] V. A. Dickson-Swift, E. L. James & S. Kippen 2005, Journal of Gambling Issues, Issue 13, March, “The experience of living with a problem gambler: Spouses & partners speak out,” available from: [15 November 2008].

[7] Senator Jeannie Ferris 2000, 3rd National Gambling Conference, Rex Hotel, Sydney, 12 May, available from: [15 November 2008].

[8] Lia Nowerand & Alex Blaszczynski,, 16 September 2008. “Older gamblers may face greater suicide risk than younger counterparts,” Psychology and Sociology, available from e Science News at: [15 November 2008].

[9] Ibid.

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