One in 20 Australians play the pokies WEEKLY

Stephen Lunn, writing at The Australian, channels the Productivity Commission’s recent report:

[The Productivity Commission] finds the legal ban in Australia on online gaming is a failure, with betting traffic heading to overseas sites that offer little in the way of consumer protection.

In its draft report on gambling, the first in-depth national look at Australia’s gambling industry in a decade, the commission finds that gamblers are losing $18 billion a year, of which $12 billion is lost on gaming machines.

It estimates that around 5 per cent of adults play weekly or more on gaming machines, and 15 per cent of those, or around 125,000 people, are problem gamblers.

Productivity commissioner Gary Banks says “a large number of people have problems with their gambling (and) it is vital that they are given a tool to achieve greater control”.

The commission recommends the reduction in the amount that can be lost on a gaming machine from its current upper limit of $1200 an hour to $120 per hour, and giving people a choice when they sit down on how much they spend, using the latest technologies.

[Emphasis added by John Barrdear]

If we assume that state governments and pubs don’t want to get rid of pokies because they’re so dependent on the revenues, then surely the only serious hope for enacting this would be for it to be a federal law.

Lifting the ban on online gambling and permitting pokies but limiting the loss rate seem sensible ideas to me – they leave people with the freedom to gamble if they wish, but limit the loss to largely one of time rather than having the option of putting the house down.

Of course, the softest still-ultimately-effective policy would be to simply hold the upper limit on loss rates constant while letting the minimum wage and welfare benefits rise with inflation so that the limit falls both in real terms (relative to the cost of living) and relative to household income.

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