The total net spend on gambling by Australian players has grown twice as fast as the country’s GDP over the past year, according to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Reported by Bloomberg, the statistics show AU$24.1 billion of gambling losses in Australia in the year ending September 2015, a record high and a continuation of the trend seen over at least the past decade.
A year ago the total was closer to AU$22.5 billion, and the 6% growth in the meantime is more than double that seen in the wider Australian economy, which has grown by about 2.5% in the same time period.
Looking back even further, the long-term trend has defied the recession, with only slight dips in 2008, 2010 and 2013.
This has seen Australian gambling losses grow from about AU$18 billion in 2005, to AU$ 19 billion in 2008, AU$21 billion in 2011, and over AU$22 billion for each of the past two years.
But what is driving the Australian gambling market in a country where, as Bloomberg notes, punters would stake on “two flies climbing a wall”?
It seems Irish bookmaker Paddy Power should think about changing its name to Pommy Power, as 46% of the British-based group’s profits now come from Australian punters.
A report earlier this year from Global Betting and Gaming Consultants found that British operators including PP, Bet365, Ladbrokes and William Hill have all led the charge in terms of UK gambling brands obtaining licences to serve customers in the Australian market.
The online channel is not the only driving force behind Aussie gambling spend though, as GBGC also reported that as much as half of all wagers are made on ‘pokies’ – the Australian term for slot machines.
And how much is Australia wagering per person? The per capita figure reached US$866 per year in 2013, putting Australia substantially ahead of the rest of the world.
Hong Kong ranked second at US$485 per person per year; Canada third on US$464; and Finland fourth at US$413, the only other country to exceed the US$400 threshold.
Interestingly, the UK ranked a lowly tenth place with per capita gambling spend of US$283 per year – a fall from third place five years earlier due to changes in UK gambling legislation.
But with the UK Gambling Commission now issuing its own licences to offshore operators wishing to serve the UK market, newly collected data should start to reverse this decline in future reports.
While the Australian government is looking into international online gambling and its possible negative social impacts, the GBGC report notes that the countries with the highest per capita spend are all relatively affluent.
Warwick Bartlett, CEO of the gambling market insight provider, explained that the notion that poor people gamble more than rich people is simply a myth.
“You can only lose what you have in your pocket, and gambling is not a priority for poor people,” he said. “It is essentially a luxury purchase when all essentials have been paid for.”