Australia‘s gamblers have burnished their reputation as the world’s most avid bettors by posting strong growth in per capita spending.
Studies have consistently placed Australia comfortably atop global per capita spending charts, but the country reportedly outdid itself in the past year, posting an increase in gambling spending that’s more than double the rate of growth in the country’s overall economy.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians lost around A$24.1b (US $17.5b) on all forms of gambling in the 12 months ending September 30, 2015. That works out to around A$1000 per resident, be they man, woman or child.
The sum is 6.1% higher than the Bureau reported in the previous 12-month period and twice the average annual growth rate over the past decade. The overall Aussie economy grew a more modest 2.5% in the 12 months through September.
Problem gambling groups expressed alarm at the figures, noting that the growth in spending came despite continued reductions in the number of Australians who participate in gambling at least once per year. Over the past 15 years, the participation rate has fallen from over 80% at the turn of the century to around 64% by 2014.
While online sports betting is credited with the fastest rate of growth among all gambling products, a recent study in Victoria found that online betting remained a niche activity, with just 5.1% of Victorian adults reporting having had an online flutter in 2014.
Australia’s ubiquitous video poker (pokies) machines remain the country’s dominant form of gambling. There are around 200k pokies in casinos, pubs and clubs across the country, making Australia second only to Italy in the number of electronic gaming machines per person.
Len Ainsworth, founder of pokies manufacturer Ainsworth Game Technology, told the Sydney Morning Herald that Aussie gambling spending was directly tied to the state of the economy. Ainsworth found “nothing surprising” about the 6% rise in gambling spending “because I reckon we’ve had at least that much inflation over the period.”