Gambling in Australia is a multibillion-dollar industry. And while we are in the midst of spring racing season – it is more evident than ever.
Let’s imagine if the money that is being gambled away was saved instead for the purposes of retirement.
We spend over $18 billion dollars per annum on all forms of gambling. This figure equates to $1,500 per annum for every man, woman, and child in the country. State governments in Australia receive a windfall every year in the form of tax revenue of approximately $5 billion, and the average annual revenue for every pokie (or electronic gaming machine) in Australia is $59,700 – and in 2009 there were a staggering 198,300 machines across the country.
I am sure you will agree the figures are staggering, and what is even more frightening, the average Australian gambles more in a year than the average person in New Zealand, Canada, and the USA combined.
So, why do Australians gamble so much?
It is certainly exciting and addictive. There is the ‘always-possible’ chance of winning money, and it also a social activity for many. For some it is a much-needed escape from the stress of work and family.
And I have to admit; my once-a-year wager on the Melbourne Cup is a lot of fun.
But for a growing number of people, between 80,000 to 160,000 Australian adults, it is a significant addiction, and continues to be a huge social problem. The estimated social costs of this addiction is $4.7 billion per annum and include consequences like suicide, depression, relationship breakdowns, poor work productivity, job loss, bankruptcy, and even criminal activity to maintain the addiction.
For me – the extent of someone’s addiction was clearly demonstrated when I was working at the Department of Social Security.
A widowed age pensioner who was quite well off and in receipt of a small age pension, slowly but surely depleted her hard earned savings by playing the pokies at her local club and losing in excess of $200,000 over a five-year period. She originally went to the club seeking companionship after her husband passed away.
She certainly did not go there to develop a gambling addiction.
After all the research and reading I have done concerning the problem I now have concerns when I watch sport on television, and find myself confronted by advertisements which allow me to wager on nearly every aspect of the game. And I can do this without even getting out of my chair.
So my question is this: do we currently run the risk of making this problem worse? And with this in mind, increasing the spend required to alleviate this polarising social problem?
Data from Productivity Commission
2010 report on gambling
MARK TEALE | RETIREMENT SPECIALIST
PREPARE FOR LIFE ISSUE 23 | OCTOBER 2016
The information provided in this page is general in nature and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information you should consider the appropriateness of the information with regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. You should seek independent advice from your financial adviser before making any decisions.
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