On this page, the team here at OnlineCasinoSite.com we take an in-depth look at the stats and facts of the gambling culture so heavily ingrained here in Australia, how it started and why it has endured.
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Gambling is one of mankind’s earliest forms of entertainment, with evidence pointing to gambling activities dating back to 2300 B.C. in China. The Bible contains ample references to the casting of lots to divide property and decide upon other outcomes. Evidenced by ancient equipment and writings, the activities of casting lots, wagering and laying odds also has its roots firmly established in Rome, ancient Egypt, in the Jewish Talmud, and within Islamic and Buddhist scriptures.
But how did gambling venture all the way to Australia, and how long did it take to get here? First let us quickly move through history.
Gambling activities, due to their entertaining nature and effectiveness of deciding problems by true randomness, continued to blossom. In the very early A.D. years, it has been suggested that King Olaf of Norway and King Olaf of Sweden resolved the problem of who should own the District of Hising by rolling dice.
Organised gambling (wagering regulated by authorities) began to develop during the Middle Ages (fifth through to the 15th century), when the game of keno became popular in China, along with other forms of lotteries.
In the 17th century, the first legal gambling house was built and opened to the public – Venice’s Casinò di Venezia – and is amazingly still operating to this very day. Randomising equipment became of great interest to mathematicians, and many land-based casinos were subject to devilish schemes which attempted to find bullet-proof (and oftentimes cheating) systems to make money.
While ancient Rome and Greece did host battles and events which spectators were able to place wagers on, it wasn’t until the late 18th century that organised and regulated sports betting was introduced. And it was horse racing that was one of the first sporting activities to be organised and controlled, and was the first major industry that capitalised on regulated sports wagering.
How gambling culture developed in Australia
The first herd of horses to be introduced to Australia was in 1788, by the early 1800s there were over 200, and the population increased dramatically throughout the 19th century, when at its peak there was one horse for every two Australians.
As the first chief player which took advantage of now legal sports betting, the racing industry made its way across all levels of Australian society and continues to play a major role in Australian sporting culture – estimated to be an $8,000,000,000 export business.
According to news.com.au, Australians bet around $55.5 million during the Flemington carnival, which includes ‘the race that stops a nation’ – the Melbourne Cup.
As sports betting gained significant momentum, so too did casino games. New South Wales legalised in all registered clubs and pubs, electronic gaming machines, which we now call the pokies, in 1956. Other Australian states followed suit thereafter.
And in 1968, the first Australian brick and mortar casinos was designed – The Wrest Point Hotel Casino – which opened its doors to the public in 1973.
The casino became an instant success. Just months after its opening, the largely local clientele were pushing approximately $50,000 a day into games and drinks, as the venue quickly began to gross more money than the London Playboy club, to give you some idea of the revenue it was generating.
The success of The Wrest Point Hotel Casino paved the way for the development of Australia’s land-based casino industry, and as of 2015, there are 13 brick and mortar casino venues across the nation, including Melbourne’s Crown Casino – the largest casino complex in the Southern Hemisphere.
With the arrival of sports and casino gambling in Australia, the betting culture continued to grow, and the activity which was previously predominantly seen as sinful and the devil’s work, had welcomed a shift in attitude. It was now an activity which was largely viewed as entertaining and harmless.
Enter the era of betting.
Today, every which way we look and listen, whether we’re watching a football match, having a pint at the local pub, playing Two Up on ANZAC Day or enjoying some tunes on the radio while driving, we are swamped with advertisements to bet on this and bet on that – you name it; Australians can bet on it.
The proliferation of gambling marketing and advertisements, and having betting associated with popular culture is one of the chief reasons as to why gambling is so ingrained in Aussie society.
However, the chance to make quick money and to profit through having fun instead of working – the foundations of gambling – is also a key factor in its popularity. You can call this greed – one of the seven deadly sins, and we can’t get enough of it.
And of course, the fact that we get a thrill from an activity based largely on chance, randomness and excitement, is another reason why we hold such a fascination with gambling.
Add to the above factors the ability to place real money bets online, with the advent of regulated online sports bookmakers; online casinos; online poker; online lotteries and other interactive betting activities, and the desire to make a fast buck has been amplified and boosted by a convenience factor like no other.
Some key betting numbers
Here are some important facts and statistics exploring the Australian betting culture, courtesy of an online ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) article published in June 2011:
- Around 70 per cent of Australians partook in some form of gambling in 2010.
- Approximately 600,000 Australians play the pokies at least once a week.
- Australia owns over 20 per cent of all the world’s electronic gaming machines (a total of almost 200,000).
- The calculated total gambling revenue from 2008 to 2009 in Australia was over $19 billion.
- The casino industry employed around 20,000 people n 2009.
- Problem gambling is a serious concern: harmful effects can include depression, broken relationships, lowered work productivity, job loss, bankruptcy, crime and suicide.
- The average player loses $380 dollars each year.
- High-intensity gamblers can spend $1500 or more in an hour.
- The online gambling industry was estimated to be worth $800 million in 2010, according to the 2010 Productivity Report.
- The report found online gambling websites offered better variety and better odds for the consumer.
These stats show just how prevalent gambling is in the Australian culture.
There are certainly relevant arguments for the reduction of the marketing, advertising and promotion of gambling within society, as a means to reduce expenditure and concerns surrounding problem gamblers.
However, the gambling and gaming industry in Australia is exactly that – a business – and it is highly unlikely that the government would ever completely sanction an activity which has helped to boost the economy tenfold and generate increased tourism.
This is why, as Australians, we need to individually look at gambling as a hobby or enjoyable exercise that is not a source of income, but rather an activity which can provide excitement and entertainment. We need to keep in mind the harmful effects it can have, and always set ourselves time and expenditure limits, spending only what we can afford to lose.
We should encourage people who are struggling with gambling to seek help, and to remove the stigma of pity which is currently attached to those with difficulties controlling their gambling habits.
We want the diverse forms of gambling to remain apart of our culture and heritage – it’s long line of history and impact on our economy and Australian tourism is quite remarkable. But at the same time, we must keep our wits about us and understand that it can be dangerous.
Enjoy gambling responsibly.