Gambling has always been a huge part of Australian culture. Having been practiced as a pastime and form of entertainment for years, the activity is so deeply ingrained in their culture that it would be impossible to get rid of. Australians do love to gamble. It is estimated that 8 out of every 10 Australians gamble at least once every year. That is a massive percentage. It is still not too surprising especially considering how accessible gambling is today.
The most notable aspect of Australian gambling culture is the undying love for pokies. These are essentially video poker machines. That is where they derive their name. They can also be rightly referred to as the Australian versions of slot machines. The names are just about it when it comes to their differences. Every aspect of the gameplay as well as the features are the same across the board.
What makes pokies so special is how big they are in Australia. To put that into context, the country has more of these poker machines than any other country in the world. This excludes gambling meccas such as Monaco or Macau but still, it is a very impressive number. With its over 200,000 poker machines, Australia stands out in a major way. This has both positive and negative implications.
How It All Started
The first slot machines, or pokies as they came to be known, appeared in Australia in the early 1900s. Right from that moment they became very popular among gamers in the country even though they were illegal. In the mid-1900s Aristocrat, an Australian gaming company that is still very popular today developed the first pokies games for the Australian audience.
That game and the ones that followed proved to be very popular. The following year, the government of New South Wales became the first in Australia to legalize pokies in registered clubs. This marked a huge turning point for gambling in Australia. However, that was later outdone with the arrival of the first video pokie games in the 1980s. These took the gaming experience to previously unimaginable heights. There were more reels as well as more lines and more ways to win than ever. Who could resist that?
By the 90s rolled around, pokies had started making their way into pubs. The move further increased their popularity.
Enter Online Gaming
Lots of industries felt the impact of the internet but not many had impacts that were quite as extensive as what the gambling sector experienced. The internet introduced a whole new way of playing poker machines. Naturally, Australians were not left behind when this great shift started becoming a reality. Today, players can enjoy spinning the reels of several hundreds of pokies machines. New gaming sites and new platforms are always coming up.In case you were wondering, you can find a list of new verified online casinos at Hapagames.com.
Considering the popularity of pokies in Australia, they are certainly big business. The sector brings a lot of tax revenue to the country. It is also a huge source of revenue for the operators. However, there are a few things that have and continue to raise some eyebrows. Let’s put that into perspective.
Compared to other countries, Australian gamers lose more than gamers. Most of these losses are because of pokes machines. Studies into the sector have found that up to 8 out of 10 Australians play every year. There is a subset of players who indulge in the activity weekly. That subset of players is estimated to lose an average of A$7,000 to A$8,000 per year.
On average, a single pokies machine makes well over A$50,000 every year. These are the less profitable ones. The most profitable ones can make as much as A$200,000 or more each. It also turns out that most of the machines are concentrated in the poorest parts of the country.
Online gaming further escalates some of these concerns. The accessibility means that way more players now have access to online pokies. The COVID-19 pandemic further catalyzed the growth of the already popular iGaming sector thus pushing online pokies to even greater heights. South Australians, for instance, lost near-record amounts to pokies during the pandemic. Combined with the rapid growth in mobile gambling, online pokies seem to have it all.
Changing the Narrative
Perhaps the most notable thing we can derive from this is the fact that it has not only reversed some long-term declines in pokies revenues. That is good for the gaming operators and the government which collects millions from the games. Now the state of the gambling sector is quite scary. Australians are considered to be the biggest gamblers on the planet. That narrative needs to change.
Already there are calls for more stringent regulation of pokies. Thanks to lobbyists and advocacy groups such as The Pokies Play You, we are seeing some drive towards making the sector safer. Better legal frameworks will also be vital to the course. Hopefully, that is something that the lawmakers and other stakeholders are taking note of. It is possible to keep enjoying the games while ensuring that consumer wellbeing is always protected.