The Conversation Hour interview with Dan Lubman: With casinos shut, some pokies addicts are kicking the habit

5 May 2020

With venues closed as a result of COVID19, it’s the perfect time to have a conversation about our relationship with pokie machines. Professor Dan Lubman spoke on ABC radio's The Conversation Hour about what we are seeing at the moment and the conversation that needs to happen before they reopen.

dan on the conversation hour

In Australia, we are world leaders in terms of gambling. We spend more per person than any other country in the world, around $240 billion a year, and 75% of that is on gaming in casinos and on pokies. It is therefore no surprise that the gambling industry pockets around $25 billion dollars from us each year (over half from pokie losses), largely from Australians who can least afford it.

Last week we heard that Australians had saved almost $1.5b due to the closure of gambling venues during the pandemic. Across our helplines, we are hearing that many gamblers have money in the pockets for the first time, and are able to pay their bills, and are reconnecting with their families. Many of them have mental health problems or have previously considered suicide.

Now is the time to reflect on the past 30 years of poker machines, what the future might look like post COVID19 and how we live as a community. We need to question whether the money sunk into poker machines could be better spent on rebuilding our economy. People often say that state governments are addicted to gambling themselves due to the gambling taxes they receive, but the costs actually outweigh the revenue, with Victorian government income in the region of $2 billion per year while the social harms cost the state around $7 billion per annum.

The highest cost of all is really to people affected by their gambling. 1 in 5 Victorians who gamble experience harm from their gambling, however this is just the tip of the iceberg, with the latest research identifying that for every person directly experiencing gambling harm, at least six more people are affected.

The episode received calls from Victorians who shared their pokie experiences, including Anna Bardsley, who formerly had a gambling addiction, and outlined what she would like to see happen around making poker machines safer for the Victorian community.

Listen here