Gambling and the economic crisis

During these tough economic times, it is tempting to find quick solutions. Gambling is one that some people choose for a financial rescue package. They go chasing money at the races, TAB, Lotto, or on the pokies.

The Victorian government (Australia) admits, “Pokies are not designed to provide you with extra income. They are designed to make profit for others.”[1] Governments that make big bucks form gambling, want you to believe that “the pokies are simply a form of entertainment.”[2]

The problem is that when you gamble, so the responsible gambling message goes, it is meant to be entertainment. It is not designed for you to make money.

For example,

just check out the odds of winning the jackpot in Powerball – one in 54 million, the pokies: one in 9.7 million, Keno the chances of a 10 number jackpot is one in 8.9 million, Lotto: one chance in 8 million, with the best chance of a win with a simple scratchie: one chance in 960,000.

Pretty scary odds when you consider the chances of getting hit by lightning is 1 in 1.6 million.[3]

In total, what do Aussies lose on gambling? The above Today Tonight report stated that “Australians lose more than $16 billion a year on games of chance.”[4] This is made up as follows:

    • Pokies rake in a cool $8.7 billion in pubs and clubs across the country.
    • Casinos with gaming tables offering blackjack, routlette, craps, poker, and keno to name a few rake in $2.5 billion.
    • The old stayer horses, net $3.2 billion.
    • Dogs have a total turnover of $760 million.
    • The trots make about $608 million.
    • Lotteries across the country pull in $1.44 billion.
    • Keno takes in $86 million.[5]

So, in these troublesome economic times, chasing money through gambling is not a good strategy for winning cash to pay the bills.

David Campbell, writing in The Age (Melbourne) about playing the pokies said:

If it’s just for ‘fun’ and not the money, then try slowing spin times; displaying the odds on winning combinations; cutting back the ability to bet large multiples on several lines; progressively displaying the total amount lost by an individual on a machine; making the machines coin-only.

And the likelihood of that happening? Much less than the chance of getting five rhinos.[6]

In its booklet on poker machines, the South Australian government made these startling, but truthful, statements:[7]

  • “Pokies are programmed so that in the end the machine will win.”
  • “Nothing you do changes that.”
  • “Pokies are not designed to provide you with extra income.”
  • “When you play the pokies, don’t expect to win.”
  • “The pokies are the winners.”
  • “When playing a game like Black Rhinos, to have a 50% chance of getting five rhinos, playing one line at a time, it would take 6.7 million button presses and cost nearly $330,000.”[8]
  • “You cannot change the fact that the odds are stacked against you.”

Yet, these are the kinds of statements that governments promoting “responsible gambling” and pokies would like you to hear:[9]

    • Set a limit on how much you will spend for this entertainment. If you want to see your favourite singer in concert, you know how much that entertainment will cost you. For entertainment on the pokies, set a financial limit and spend not a cent more. This may mean leaving ATM cards at home, getting a second signature on a bank account, or leaving your credit card at home.
    • Also set a limit for the time you will spend at the venue.
    • Never borrow money for gambling.
    • Accept that losses are the cost of entertainment. Never chase your losses.
    • Please learn to understand the random numbers of how poker machines work. The poker machine is designed for the gaming venue ultimately to win and not for you the winner. The pokies are meant to encourage you to play. They are not designed to give you more back than you “invest.” The occasional win for you is a big factor in attracting you back to the venue to play again.
    • If you get into trouble, you will find government funded help at Gambling Helpline and Gambling Help Service agencies in your local community.[10]

In these tough economic times, you are going to be tempted to get quick cash. Gambling is not meant for that purpose. Governments say it is designed for fun. Try telling that to families that are devastated by problem gambling!

If you go to a venue, TAB or the race track hoping to get you out of your economic fixes (paying bills of mortgage, electricity & telephone), you generally will be sorely disappointed.

South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, elected to Australian federal parliament after a “no pokies” platform in the South Australian upper house, said:

It’s a bit cute for the clubs [in Canberra] to say they’re providing the amenity in a safe environment. It may be physically safe but it is not financially safe. This is a product that causes an enormous amount of harm. . . It is a sad situation that you have clubs that are supposed to be there supporting the community being involved in an activity that rips families a part that damages communities. And that’s the reality of poker machines.[11]

Let’s face it: The gambling venues want to suck you in to believe that you can be a winner at the pokies. Gambling is for jokers!


[1] Poblemgambling, “Playing the Pokies,” available from:|8331|poker%20machine%20problem||S|b|3859636626 [22 August 2009].

[2] Ibid.

[3] David Richardson, “Today Tonight,” 9 November 2007, available from: [22 August 2009.]

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] David Campbell, “So the pokies are fun? You must be joking Mr Tatersalls,” The Age, October 20, 2003, [22 August 2009].

[7] The pokies: Before you press the button, know the facts, available from: available from: [22 August 2009].

[8] This statement is from the Productivity Commission 1999, Australian Gambling Industries Inquiry, Report No. 10. See: [22 August 2009]. A new Productivity Commission report on gambling commenced on 24 November 2008. See the press release at: [22 August 2009].

[9] These are my statements and I used them in an article I wrote for a local newspaper. I am ashamed that I was so naïve as to believe this “responsible gambling” party line stuff.

[10] Details are at: [22 August 2009].

[11] Chris Kimball, “Canberra: Pokie Capital?” Stateline, 7 August 2009, available from: [22 August 2009].

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