‘Worst year yet’ for Australia’s pokies as online casino popularity surges

  • Revenues at lowest rate since 2002, reports DBCS
  • State tax income from pokies also fell significantly

Australia’s pokies have suffered their ‘worst year yet’, according to Department of Business and Consumer Services figures, with inflation-adjusted revenues coming in lower than ever previously recorded.

The income for 2016/17 is lower than any figure recorded since 2002, prompting fears that the industry is declining rapidly.

Slot machines, known locally as pokies
Slot machines, known locally as pokies, in Australia

State authorities will receive notably less income from local pokies in this fiscal year as a result of the falling profits, which many attribute to the growth in online casino games and the rise of illegal, unlicensed gambling websites which offer prohibited games to players.

Limited gambling service pushes players into black market

Online gambling players and operators in Australia are subject to the Interactive Gambling Act.

This law places restrictions on which type of games can be played, with online poker and live sports betting prohibited during reforms made earlier this year.

It also limits which operators can have a license, imposes heavy tax obligations on any revenue earned, and adds geographical boundaries to operations. These measures are all designed to improve security and player safety, and to reduce the potential harm of problem gambling.

However, tight controls and game bans often have the opposite result – pushing players towards illegal online betting sites, where play is not monitored or licensed and where support is not readily available. “People will gamble using foreign providers by various means.

“They will be in the hands of sometimes shady providers, and if they get ripped off, they will have no recourse,”
senator David Leyonhjelm.

States push pokies in bid to recover revenues

Gambling in Australia has been subject to reform in recent years, with authorities keen to strike a balance between addressing problem gambling and maintaining tax income. Profits made from pokies are subject to higher tax rates, but these are often funnelled back into community projects and gambling support services.

The government in Victoria recently moved to slow the growth of pokies in clubs, added a cap that will be effective until 2042, but they also made it easier for individual clubs to add more machines.

A Canberra casino will also be adding pokies for players after a change in the law opened the door for expansion of local gambling. Electronic table games will be made available at the Canberra Casino, subject to certain restrictions.

Clubs will get a preferable rate and will be able to offer higher maximum wagers, but the casino is still likely to benefit from the additional profit stream.

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