Pokies in Australia vs. The Rest of the World

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We Aussies have our national pride in everything that we do. Basically, if we’re going to do something, it’s pretty much a given that we’re going to do it well. And pokies are no exception.

To get an understanding of where we stand in terms of our pokies to play compared to the rest of the world – and our overall expressions of pokies love – we’ve put together a compilation of different parameters that prove our pokies power. So when it comes to pokies in Australia versus the rest of the world, let’s see what we’ve got, where we rank, and how we measure up.

The local legality of land-based casinos


One major factor that Australia has going for it is the law. That is, gambling in many formats, including poker machines, is legal here. Not only that, we have many brick and mortar casinos scattered across the country including 5-star establishments like the Crown Perth and top-rated favorites by qualified travelers like the Crown Melbourne or Country Club Tasmania. That means for many of us, a visit to a casino and its pokies machines is often just a car ride away.

Other countries aren’t quite as lucky to have easy access to casinos in just about every town. For example, take a place like the US. It is true that you can easily find casinos in places like Atlantic City and the Las Vegas Strip. But then there are states like Hawaii and Utah which have a 100% ban on gambling. Another 20 or so states don’t have a complete ban on gambling, but they don’t have land-based casinos either. So in other words, with casinos found in just over half of the states, casinos in the US are quite a bit harder to come by than here in Australia.

Then, of course, there are tonnes of countries where there is no legal casino action at all. For example, you’ve got the United Arab Emirates, Cambodia, Brunei, and Qatar, to name but a few. And no casinos, needless to say, means no pokies to play in any of these places.

In other words, when it comes to pokies in Australia vs. the rest of the world we’ve already got a huge advantage, with so many local casinos offering them up. But keep in mind, here it’s not just casinos where you can play pokies. We also have a massive number of pokies machines outside of dedicated gambling venues, predominantly in our pubs and clubs. This differs from the rest of the world, where poker machines are strictly kept to casinos and similar spaces.

The local legality of online casinos


Another big advantage we’ve got over other countries is the legality of online pokies here in Australia.

In case you’re not quite familiar with the law, it goes something like this. In 2001, the Australian government came out with what is known as the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. As any legalize, it’s a bit confusing to decipher. It seems to imply that it is illegal for anyone in Australia to offer casino gambling services online to people in Australia. However, it does not seem to say that online gambling per se is illegal here, so long as the service being provided is from a company based overseas. A fancy little loophole indeed. But the long and the short of it is that at the moment, it is essentially legal to play pokies at online casinos in Australia.

Once again, the citizens of other countries aren’t quite so lucky when it comes to online pokies play. At the moment, for example, online casinos are illegal across the United States, with the exception of the states of New Jersey and Delaware. Many other countries in the world also have an explicit ban on online casinos, making online pokies a far off dream. These include places like Russia, Brazil, and Japan to name but a few. Then there are the countries where online gambling is allowed, but only with specific local licenses like the UK, France, and Germany. This means players can certainly enjoy pokies there, but the offering may be somewhat more limited than what we can reach from here in Australia.

Of course, since it’s getting harder and harder to control people’s actions on the internet, many countries are in the process of loosening up their online gambling laws. But for the moment, while we wait for things to change, Australia compared to the rest of the world is in an excellent position when it comes to accessing online pokies.

The variety factor and the numbers game

Since we as Australians have such incredible access to pokies both in an offline and online format, it is needless to say that we are rich with choice. In fact, we may have access to some of the greatest variety of pokies around.

This can be attested to by the sheer number of pokies machines we have here. For a small comparison, think of this. There are some 200,000 pokies machines in Australia, whereas a roughly similar sized country like Canada has around 98,000. There are so many poker machines here that we have the highest per capita rate in the world, excluding Monaco and Macau which are gambling specific destinations visited primarily for their casinos. How many poker machines you ask? At last count, it was one machine per 114 people, but the rate of the machines may well be growing faster than the population itself. In other terms, Australia, home to just 0.3% of the global population is home to 18% of the world’s poker machines!

While obviously not all of the pokies machines you will find around here are different from one another, the numbers game dictates that even accounting for duplicates of the more popular machines in the same casino, there is still loads of variety at-hand. And while we certainly import many of our games from abroad, particularly the IGT machines from the US, we have been blessed with numerous fantastic local pokies manufacturers within our borders. These, of course, include first and foremost our homegrown pokies masters found at Aristocrat, followed by the fast-spreading Ainsworth Game Technology machines. These local legends and their machines once again put us at an advantage over most other nations of the world in terms of pokies variety, local access, and most certainly national pride.

As for the online variety Aussies enjoy, these numbers are about as unlimited as the internet pokies themselves. That is, if a pokies game exists out there in cyberspace, we in all likelihood have access to it from any number of online casinos at which we’re able to play. While you may say this is true in every country where online gambling is available, the truth is less simple. For example, in regulated markets like many European countries, only operators with a license can conduct business. And not every online casino can bother with all that paperwork, instead preferring to focus on “easier” markets like Australia. That means people in Italy or Germany could well possibly be missing out on any number of online pokies games.

A comparison of how much people spend on pokies per nation


Okay, we are not sure if this is a bragging point or not, but it is certainly interesting to see where Australians stand in a global comparison in terms of money spent on pokies.

Let’s put it this way. Australians spend about $20 billion annually on gambling. The majority of this sum is spent on pokies machines. Not surprisingly then, the largest gambling losses are also on pokies, totaling around $12 billion dollars a year. For a comparison, racing losses are about $3 billion and lotto losses around $1.9 billion. If you work out the total losses per Aussie adult on pokies, that’s around $700 each per year. Add in all the other gambling types and it’s about $1100 each. These are not only astounding numbers per se, they are also world-leading statistics. Australians today lose more per capita on gambling than citizens of any other country in the world thanks to all our pokies betting. For comparison’s sake, people in the US and New Zealand lose about $600 a year, and those in Britain and Canada around $500 a year. Part of what makes pokies losses so large is the sheer pace of the game. For example, you can make a maximum bet and spin repeatedly on a pokies machine for hours on end, with no end or limit in sight. Sporting events, on which we like to bet as well, naturally come around less frequently and are slower paced, thereby reducing spends and losses in kind.

The positive side, perhaps, for the Australian government are all those taxes collected on the pokies machines in hotels and clubs, which total well over $3 billion annually. And the venues themselves, of course, also earn well, with the average machine raking in $56K plus per year. And finally, even with all those losses, there are plenty of people who win big playing the pokies. While no one in Australia, for example, won a major online pokies jackpot in the last year, plenty of players from places like Canada and Sweden did, landing the reels in the ideal place, to become newly minted pokies millionaires. And many other Australians, over the course of the years have become instant millionaires at the slots. So there is something to all this pokies spending after all.


Pokies addiction per country


One realm of which we are less proud, however, is that of pokies addiction. It is an unfortunate truth that pokies addiction is higher here in Australia than other places in the world. That is in large part, needless to say because we have greater access to pokies than other nations and play more frequently. So much so, that estimates range from 20% up to 30% of the adult population engaging in this betting pastime annually. On a weekly basis, the numbers are more like 4%. Either way, these are some pretty high stats.

But playing pokies is one thing. It is a legitimate hobby after all. What is rather concerning is the fact that of all these poker machine players, approximately 30% are considered problem gamblers or at risk for becoming problem gamblers. In other words, Australia once again leads the world, this time in terms of problem gamblers followed by countries like Singapore, Ireland, Canada, and Finland.

Gambling is so widespread in Australia that the government has been getting involved with numerous initiatives and reforms to help combat addiction and excessive play. And the majority of citizens are in favor of these curbing actions. These include things like implementing measures to reduce maximum limits on bets and even forcing patrons to pre-set their limits on spending at pokies venues. While these are interesting ideas for the offline world, they would certainly be harder to patrol online. Perhaps if we moved more towards a regulated market structure like much of Europe, we could insist on safety measures at online casinos as well.

Essentially, while we certainly do not anticipate a full force ban on pokies like other countries in response to addiction, we definitely welcome initiatives that will help keep our people safer and healthier.

The bottom line on pokies in Australia vs. pokies in the rest of the world

After having a look at numerous parameters, it is safe to say that Australians are likely the biggest lovers of pokies machines in the world. We simply can’t seem to get enough of them, playing them more often than other people, betting more money on them, and yes, unfortunately losing more money on them as well. This may simply be because they are so darned accessible – in convenient locations like casinos, pubs, and clubs as well as online. Or it may be a part of our national character that’s certainly known for its thrill-seeking nature.

Whatever the reasons, the results are both good and bad. The government respects our preferences enough to keep pokies legal and available. But at the same time, national measures are constantly being taken to watch our backs and help prevent the now prevalent problem of gambling from spreading even further. In other words, like in many areas of life, we are well aware of where we stand and are happy to live in a place that’s fun, free, and always aiming to stay safe.

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