A 30 percent rise in sports betting over the past 12 months has contributed to a concerning increase in total gambling losses, new Australian Gambling statistics figures show.
Punters lost $23 billion in 2014-2015, which is an average of $1241 per head. Unsurprisingly, poker machines make up a large portion of total losses, almost half at $11.6 billion, up 4 percent on 2013-2014.
The total figure of gambling loses stands at $22.7 billion for the year 2014-2015, prompting calls for state and federal governments to do more to stem the rise of problem gambling across Australia.
With sports betting growing 30 percent in only 12 months — and with it expected to grow exponentially in the coming years — state governments are working to quickly stem the reach of betting agencies.
The Victorian government is moving ahead with plans to ban betting ads near schools and public transport. Offshore bookies are also in the firing line, with Canberra looking to improve consumer protection that covers online gambling.
Leading the charge is Senator Nick Xenophon, who recently called for the government to start regulating or outright banning “insidious” online gambling that included video games.
Monash University Public Health expert Charles Livingstone told Fairfax Media that the growth in sports betting was concerning.
“It demonstrates why we need to better regulate promotion and advertising. Otherwise we’re facing big growth in gambling problems and harm from young men and women,” Dr Livingstone said.
The major problem according to Dr Livingstone was still the pokies, which racked in $12 billion in gambling losses per year. “If we’re worried by sports betting, we should be 13 times more worried about the pokies,” Dr Livingstone said.
Pokie losses averaged out to $558 per Victorian, and $1250 per Australian in total. The per person loss in NSW was significantly higher at $1517.
Heavy marketing campaigns could be to be blame for the growth in sports betting, according to Deakin University associate professor of public health, Samantha Thomas, who told Fairfax Media that it was time for governments to act.
“While not all losses equal harm, a lot of them do,” she said. “It’s time for governments to start to seriously consider the factors that are contributing to these growing losses and implement effective evidenced-based strategies to reduce harm,” she said.
Ms Thomas said it was integral that governments address factors such as prolific advertising and high intensity poker machines.
“Clearly, ‘gamble responsibly’ strategies are not having an impact on reducing losses or preventing harm,” she said.
The Victorian Government has invested $150 million over four years to support problem gambling services.
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