Three fourths of all Australians have a problem with gambling. Although the country only has 22 million people -- fewer than the entire state of Texas -- Aussies spend nearly $12 billion a year on poker machines alone.
And that has the Australian government worried about its next generation.
"Many Australians enjoy an occasional flutter," says a government website.
"However for some, gambling can be highly destructive – ruining lives and destroying families. As a community, we have a duty of care to make gambling on poker machines safer and protect people whose gambling is out of control. As a result, several members of Australia's parliament are asking that all gambling advertising be banned during hours that children are viewing TV, according to the Australian daily newspaper.
News commentators would also be banned from announcing the odds during sports competitions. Loopholes in federal laws allowing already illegal online gambling sites would be closed.
Poker machines are extremely popular in Australia
The legislators said that Australian society's normalization of sports gambling has become a serious concern.
“Gambling advertising is contributing to the development of gambling problems, particularly among young men,” said a recent parliamentary committee report.
“The high level of betting promotion during sport is making it difficult for some problem gamblers to recover. “The committee was also warned of the effects that this high level of advertising can have on children who are highly influenced by gambling advertising.”
The report called for more research into a new national gambling institute, as well as a nationally-consistent code of conduct for advertisers to be agreed upon.
The committee's chairman, parliamentarian Andrew Wilkie, said with Australians losing $1.5 billion a year online, reform of the Interactive Gambling Act was crucial.
“There is a consensus on the committee that the Interactive Gambling Act could be enhanced, in particular for the advertising aspects to be strengthened,” he said.
According to the Australian government website:
• Three quarters of problem gamblers have problems with poker machines.
• One in six people who play the pokies regularly has a serious gambling problem.
• The cost to the community of problem gambling is estimated to be at least $4.7 billion a year.
• Some poker machines can be played at extremely high intensity—many lines, many credits per line, and a bet every three seconds.
• A gambler could lose in excess of $1,500 in just one hour.
• Children with a parent who is a problem gambler are up to 10 times more likely than children with non-gambling parents to develop problem gambling behaviors. .