Anna Robinson plays at "The Phantom" slot machine at Bowlers Club in Central Sydney November 23, 2011. Australia has 197,000 slot machines, called "pokies", the highest number of machines per head in the world. Slot machines feed 62 percent of the A$19 billion-plus ($17.5 billion) annual gaming sector. But the gamblers, largely working-class Australians, are on a collision course with the Labor government as it tries to tackle problem gambling, a battle that can impact Prime Minister Julia Gillard's political future. Picture taken on November 23, 2011.

Australia loses more money to gambling than any country in the world

$920

Gambling costs Australia more money than any country in the world, draining $24 billion Australian dollars ($18.4 billion) per year—or over A$1,200 ($920) per person.

Published   |  Photo by Reuters/Daniel Munoz
Anna Robinson plays at "The Phantom" slot machine at Bowlers Club in Central Sydney November 23, 2011. Australia has 197,000 slot machines, called "pokies", the highest number of machines per head in the world. Slot machines feed 62 percent of the A$19 billion-plus ($17.5 billion) annual gaming sector. But the gamblers, largely working-class Australians, are on a collision course with the Labor government as it tries to tackle problem gambling, a battle that can impact Prime Minister Julia Gillard's political future. Picture taken on November 23, 2011.
$920

Betting machines—or “pokies,” a common sight in Australian pubs and supermarkets—account for over half of those losses. Lawmakers say the machines are crippling Australia’s economy.

Anna Robinson plays at "The Phantom" slot machine at Bowlers Club in Central Sydney November 23, 2011. Australia has 197,000 slot machines, called "pokies", the highest number of machines per head in the world. Slot machines feed 62 percent of the A$19 billion-plus ($17.5 billion) annual gaming sector. But the gamblers, largely working-class Australians, are on a collision course with the Labor government as it tries to tackle problem gambling, a battle that can impact Prime Minister Julia Gillard's political future. Picture taken on November 23, 2011.
$920

Pokies also play a major factor in Australia’s elections. As politicians vie for regulations, betting-machine manufacturers and gambling lobbies leverage massive influence against opponents.

Anna Robinson plays at "The Phantom" slot machine at Bowlers Club in Central Sydney November 23, 2011. Australia has 197,000 slot machines, called "pokies", the highest number of machines per head in the world. Slot machines feed 62 percent of the A$19 billion-plus ($17.5 billion) annual gaming sector. But the gamblers, largely working-class Australians, are on a collision course with the Labor government as it tries to tackle problem gambling, a battle that can impact Prime Minister Julia Gillard's political future. Picture taken on November 23, 2011.
$920

Betting machines earn millions of dollars in state revenues, but many studies link them to gambling addiction, suburban decay, and increased poverty.

Anna Robinson plays at "The Phantom" slot machine at Bowlers Club in Central Sydney November 23, 2011. Australia has 197,000 slot machines, called "pokies", the highest number of machines per head in the world. Slot machines feed 62 percent of the A$19 billion-plus ($17.5 billion) annual gaming sector. But the gamblers, largely working-class Australians, are on a collision course with the Labor government as it tries to tackle problem gambling, a battle that can impact Prime Minister Julia Gillard's political future. Picture taken on November 23, 2011.
$920

That’s even with recent national declines in betting activity. Fewer Australians play each year, but the mean amount of gambling losses per state still trends at an all-time high.

Anna Robinson plays at "The Phantom" slot machine at Bowlers Club in Central Sydney November 23, 2011. Australia has 197,000 slot machines, called "pokies", the highest number of machines per head in the world. Slot machines feed 62 percent of the A$19 billion-plus ($17.5 billion) annual gaming sector. But the gamblers, largely working-class Australians, are on a collision course with the Labor government as it tries to tackle problem gambling, a battle that can impact Prime Minister Julia Gillard's political future. Picture taken on November 23, 2011.
$920

“Often, Australians don’t realize it,” one government-funded gambling researcher told the New York Times. “It’s like being a fish in water.”