Gerry Georgatos – Australia has nearly one-fifth of the world’s poker machines, 60 times the rate of the rest of the world. More than three-quarters of Australia’s 200,000 poker machines are in non-gaming venues; in recreation centres, clubs and pubs. Eighteen percent of the world’s poker machines pollute Australia, making poorer people of relatively little financial means.

How is it Australia, with 0.3 percent of the global population, has 18 percent of the world’s poker machines?

With more than 200,000 poker machines there is one for every 110 Australians.

Legislation can prohibit poker machines in non-gaming venues. Western Australia is testament to this, with no poker machines anywhere other than within Perth’s Burswood Casino.

Australians gamble more than $200 billion each year in all forms of betting. On a per person basis that’s almost $11,000. Gambling counsellors are on the increase.

It is a failure of national leadership – weak willed and compromised governments.

Studies have found that problem gamblers are between 10 to 15 times more likely to suicide compared to the general population.

The trauma of addiction is often responded to by clinicians, but we need to understand that the causal pathway is behavioural and psychosocial and is made more likely because of exposure to poker machines for instance, TABs in shopping centres or precincts. The dramatic reduction of TABs and the restriction of poker machines to only gaming establishments such as preferably casinos only as in Western Australia, will reduce the incidence of addiction.

The average Australian adult loses more money each year through gambling than the combined total of their annual gas, electricity and water bills.

I work with people who are vulnerable, who live impoverished, with an arc of negative issues, and I am experiencing an increasing number of vulnerable people hovelled into poorer existences by gambling addictions, isolated into depression, and the impacts within families living with little can be harrowing, often where family goes without food.

In my view, our Governments can legislate for what’s right. It is that easy.


  • Gerry Georgatos is a suicide prevention and poverty researcher. He is also the national coordinator of the National Suicide Prevention & Trauma Recovery Project.
  • Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78; Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636.