Last week, local gaming site Online Casino Australia and the newspaper Herald Sun, reported the problem of gambling addiction in Australia. The addiction to the types of poker and pokie machines that are readily available in pubs, hotels and beyond are threatening the good reputation of online poker firms.
The gaming firm argues that online and machine gambling cannot be boxed together or placed under the same umbrella.
ProblemGambling.gov.au recently reported that Australians spend $12bn annually on these machines, losing more money than any other nation. The issue became so serious that Prime Minister Gillard promised a daily loss limit would need to be set by gamblers on cards they use to enable the machines.
The owners of the licensed clubs offering pokie machines are quick to point out that gambling addiction cannot be blamed on pokies alone. This view is not however, shared by those treating gambling addiction.
Studies at the Flinders University by Professor Malcolm Battersby, director of the Human Behaviour and Health Research Unit, lays the blame, primarily, on pokies. An expert on Self Management and the treatment of problem gambling, he says the growth in sports betting and online gambling has not resulted in an increase in the number of people they treat.
This is supported by the case of Leanne Scott, an Adelaide woman recently sentenced to six years imprisonment for stealing money from two employers to fund her online pokie addiction.
Problem gambling has seen a six fold increase in divorce, a higher tendency to abuse alcohol, cigarettes, and a greater likelihood to raise children to inherit gambling addictions according to an NCBI report. With a social cost of $4.7bn a year, it is a problem that cannot be ignored declares Online Casino Australia, owners of several online gaming brands.
Online Casino Australia point to free games many online casinos offer as an option for problem gamblers to enjoy without financial commitment. Although free casinos are designed to get gamblers into games and ultimately into the money casino, there is the option of not attaching a card to the account, therefore not making a deposit.
Anecdotal evidence suggests the availability and accessibility to land based pokies is only fuelling gambling addiction in Australia. Without regulations on maximum bets and loss limits the financial losses will continue.
Online Casino Australia compares free play gaming to non alcoholic beer, or electronic cigarettes. It gives problem gamers an outlet without the threat of social devastation.