An American writer who moved to Sydney has revealed he was struck by how common pokie rooms are across the nation.
Michael Miller, the Australian correspondent for the Washington Post, said: ‘When I moved to Sydney a year ago and exited two weeks of hotel quarantine, I remember going to a pub for a schnitty (chicken schnitzel for non-Aussies) and a schoonie (glass of beer) and being struck by the sight of a room full of online slot machines.
‘In much of the world, slots are confined largely to casinos. But in Australia, pokies — as the machines are called here — are everywhere,’ he explained on Twitter.
A leading American journalist has revealed how he was shocked by the large number of pokies in Australia after moving down under
He wrote an article titled: ‘In Australia, online slot machines are everywhere. So is gambling addiction,’ exposing the nations addiction to pokies
‘They’re in thousands of hotels and pubs, in big cities & small towns. They’ve transformed neighborhood social clubs into gambling palaces.
‘In many cities, it’s hard to walk more than a few blocks without encountering a “VIP Room” or “VIP Lounge.”
Mr Miller was so taken back by the nation’s gambling problem that he wrote an article titled: ‘In Australia, slot machines are everywhere. So is gambling addiction,’ for the Washington Post.
It reveals that Australia is only home to 0.3 per cent of the world’s population, but 20 per cent of its pokies.
Australia leads the planet with an average $1,000 in gambling losses per adult per year
He also highlights a damning statistic that Australia leads the planet with an average $1,000 in gambling losses per adult per year.
In his article, Mr Miller reveals there’s little political will to do much about Australia’s pokie problem because the gambling industry generates so much income for state governments.
‘The gambling industry donates millions of dollars to the major political parties and pays billions in taxes to states and territories,’ he explained.
However he warned that lack of action about the problem is causing horrific consequences for the nation’s gambling addicts.
‘I’m not the first to write about the gambling industry Down Under, including political influence that opponents liken to the American gun lobby. The industry pays billions in taxes, and supporters say pokies are legal, regulated and enjoyed responsibly by millions of Australians.
‘But I wanted to show the personal impact of having a de facto “casino on your doorstep.” I heard a burly man choke up as he recounted stealing from his kids’ piggy bank to fuel his habit. I saw a woman who’d turned to pokies to escape trauma struggle to avoid catastrophe.’
‘I watched a mother at wit’s end try to save her addicted son. And I saw a suicide go from a rallying cry for reform to another example of inaction.’
According to a recent study from Gambling Research, the number of Australians with a gambling problem has doubled over 10 years to more than 1 per cent.
There are more than 190,000 electronic gambling machines in Australia – more per capita than almost any other major jurisdiction, aside from Nevada, data from 2019 shows.
The spotlight on Australia’s gambling problem comes after the NSW Government hinted at plans to drop a controversial cashless gaming card proposal that was supposed to help solve the issue.
The card policy was intended to stop problem gamblers and criminals using pokie machines to launder money.
Under the plan devised by former gaming minister Victor Dominello, gamblers would have to register and pre-load money to the card.
Mr Miller said in many Australian cities, it’s hard to walk more than a few blocks without encountering a pokie room
However current gaming minister Kevin Anderson, who tookover the portfolio in December is set to ditch the idea.
‘I don’t support the government controlling the card,’ Mr Anderson told the Daily Telegraph.
Clubs NSW has opposed the cashless card, with claims it would cost the clubs industry $1.8bn in lost revenue.
Mr Anderson says still in favor of using digital payments to reduce problem gambling.
The industry is currently trialing an opt-in ‘digital wallet’ for pokies at a popular club in Newcastle.
Mr Anderson says he will await the trials results before pursuing discussions about gambling reforms, which he says would need to be “industry-driven” with “government support”.