Poker machine count puts Australia in big time

By Stephanie Peatling, The Age

There is now one poker machine for every 108 people in Australia, putting the nation in the top 10 of international gambling hotspots alongside Monaco and some Caribbean islands.

Australia also has the seventh-highest total number of gaming machines, with 200,057 in pubs and clubs, industry figures show.

The federal government says the figures show why gambling is such a problem in Australia.

”Problem gambling is very serious. People’s lives are being ruined and families destroyed. More must be done to help pokie addicts and their families,” the Minister for Families and Community Services, Jenny Macklin, said.

The report was prepared for the gaming industry earlier this year and comes as the clubs have one of their biggest weekends of the year with the AFL and NRL grand finals.

Ms Macklin said the government would push ahead with its plans to introduce mandatory pre-commitment that would require people to nominate how much money they are prepared to lose in a set period.

”Clubs Australia are using some very aggressive tactics but the Australian community won’t be bullied by this $20 million scare campaign,” Ms Macklin said.

”Australians want action to tackle problem gambling and that’s what we are delivering.”

NSW has by far the most machines of any state, with 97,103, according to the World Count of Gaming Machines. Queensland is second with 47,318 followed by Victoria with 29,262.

The total number of machines in Australia has grown by about 15,000 between 2008 and 2010.

Australia has about 2.8 per cent of the world’s gaming machines. Only Japan, the USA, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany have more casino-style gambling machines than Australia.

As part of the deal to support Labor in minority government, Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie demanded that by 2014 machines must have pre-commitment technology to require gamblers to nominate how much they are prepared to lose in a set period. If the initial legislation is not passed by May 31, 2012, Mr Wilkie has vowed to withdraw his support for the government, potentially bringing it down.

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