Gambling Addiction in Australia

Article by Andy Potts
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Last Updated: Apr 2nd, 2024 Share On Your Network:

Online casino gambling, sports betting, and playing pokies in pubs or land-based casinos can be a whole lot of fun, but it’s important to acknowledge that gambling addiction is a real and dangerous thing throughout the world, including in Australia. 

While many people can enjoy gambling in a totally responsible way, that isn’t the case for everyone, so there are a lot of regulations around gambling, as well as many tools that you can use to stay in control. 

In this guide to gambling addiction in Australia, we’ll go into detail about the reasons for problematic gambling, the impact on gambling addicts and their families, and what can be done to prevent this type of behaviour and continue enjoying gambling in a safe way. 

Prevalence of Gambling in Australia

Gambling is very popular in Australia – more popular than you might think. In fact, according to a 2022 survey by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, over 73% of adults spent money on some form of gambling within the preceding 12 months. 

In 2017, it was suggested that Australians topped the world rankings when it came to losses from gambling, and between 2015 and 2016, gambling made up 7.7% of state and territory taxation revenue, meaning that it was a major industry for the country. 

One of the most popular forms of gambling in Australia is playing at land-based pokies, which can be found in pubs and casinos from Sydney to Alice Springs. Between 2020 and 2021, there was a total spend of $150 billion on pokies, with the average loss per person sitting at $608.

Although online casinos don’t operate directly from Australia (due to licensing regulations), players can sign up and play at regulated offshore casinos, which hold licences from bodies like the Malta Gaming Authority or the Government of Curacao. Online casinos offer pokies, live dealer games, and classic casino table games, and Australian online casino gamblers wager around $250 billion online every year.

Understanding Gambling Addiction

According to the Mayo Clinic, gambling addiction is “the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life.” While gambling is defined as risking something you value in the hopes of getting something of better value, it’s usually used to refer to playing casino games or placing bets for real money.


The main reason for gambling addiction is the same as any other kind of addiction – winning money feels good, and it stimulates certain systems in the brain in the same way that drugs or alcohol can. This is why it’s possible to get addicted to gambling.


So, why don’t all casino players get addicted? Like all other addictions, it’s difficult to point to one particular cause, as it’s a combination of a lot of things like biological, genetic, and environmental factors that can cause someone to become addicted. 

The majority of people who enjoy some casual gambling won’t ever develop a problem, but you might be more predisposed to it if you have mental health issues or if you possess certain personality traits like being highly competitive, easily bored, or impulsive. 

It’s important to remember that people who are addicted to gambling simply cannot control the urge to keep doing it. This might lead to serious consequences like losing their job or home or the breakdown of relationships, as well as severe financial issues like bankruptcy. 

If you think you or a loved one might be suffering from a gambling addiction, there are a few symptoms you should start to look out for, including:

  • Being preoccupied with gambling
  • Spending money that is earmarked for other uses (like paying bills)
  • Gambling to escape problems
  • Risking important relationships, school, or work because of gambling
  • Lying to others about gambling
  • Feeling irritable when trying to cut down on gambling

If you notice any of these symptoms, there are helpful tools and organisations out there, which we’ll discuss later in this article.

Impact on Individuals and Families

Research has found that about 46% of Australian gamblers aged 18+ may be at risk of developing some form of a gambling problem. In general, men are more likely to develop a problem than women (53% for men and 38% for women), while the age group with the biggest risk is those between 18 and 34 years.

If you as an individual have a gambling addiction, you probably already know what some of the consequences are. Depending on the level of your addiction, these can range from minor impacts to truly devastating and life-changing consequences, but it’s not just the addict that’s impacted – it’s everyone around them, including friends and family members. 

Amongst the smaller issues that can be caused by gambling problems are things like being more tired because you’ve stayed up late playing online casino games, minor relationship problems, and erosion of your savings due to spending too much money gambling. 

Some of the larger issues include bankruptcy and loss of your home. There are also “legacy” harms, where the issues created by a gambling problem continue to have an impact, even after you’ve cut down on gambling. According to research, the three main areas impacted by gambling addiction are relationships (25%), health (21%), and emotional or psychological well-being (19%). 

The Second National Study of Interactive Gambling in Australia was conducted between 2019 and 2020, and it found that 6% of people surveyed said that they had been negatively impacted by someone else’s gambling habits. 

In most cases, it was family members who faced these negative impacts, but friends and work colleagues also reported issues. The most common negative impacts that others felt had to do with feeling helpless about their loved one’s gambling or experiencing stress or tension in their relationship. 

However, it’s important to note that loss of money, loss of sleep, and less time spent with their loved ones were also concerns.

Regulatory Measures and Industry Responsibility

Australia doesn’t have one single gambling regulator, which makes the industry regulations a little murkier than in some other countries, like the UK. Although gambling is regulated at a state level, the Australian Gambling Council’s website states that there are 10 rules that apply consistently to all gambling providers in Australia:

  1. Prohibitions on lines of credit
  2. Restrictions to protect consumers with regard to small amount credit contracts (payday lenders)
  3. A reduction in the time allowed to undertake customer verification requirements
  4. Restrictions on inducements
  5. Account closure provisions
  6. Provision of a voluntary opt-out pre-commitment scheme
  7. Provision of activity statements
  8. Consistent messaging
  9. Staff training
  10. A national self-exclusion register

You’ll notice that a number of these rules are there to ensure that players are given a safe environment where they can gamble responsibly. Broadly, responsible gambling support measures in Australia are broken down into three categories:

  1. Primary Prevention Initiatives: Focusing on educating people about gambling, odds, chances of winning, the cost of play, and types of gambling. 
  2. Secondary Prevention Initiatives: Focusing on gamblers within land-based venues, for example limiting the amount of money that can be withdrawn at casino ATMs. 
  3. Safety Net Initiatives: Focusing on gamblers who might have a problem, for example, by means of self-exclusion programs.

You’ll also find that online casinos require you to verify your identity using your ID and proof of address documents for an additional layer of protection.

Treatment and Support Options

The first thing to do if you suspect that you (or a loved one) might have a gambling problem is to check the responsible gambling tools available at the online casino where you’re playing. 

Most Australian online casinos offer a number of tools to help you control spend; for example, you might be able to set deposit limits, loss limits, wagering limits, or session time limits. 

Some online casinos also have the option to set a “reality check”, which can remind you of how long you’ve been playing. To restrict access to your account, you may also want to take a time-out or self-exclude. Customer support teams are generally trained to assist with responsible gambling queries.

To restrict your access to all casinos, you can register with BetStop – the National Self-Exclusion Register. You can self-exclude for anywhere between three months and a lifetime, and this is generally a very effective way to combat problematic gambling, as you simply won’t have access to online or phone gambling.

There are also a whole lot of services available that can help you get through problematic gambling. Most of these services run 24-hour, free helplines where you can reach out for confidential support, and they might also have free counselling services and resources to support family members and friends of gambling addicts. We’ll link to a few of the main organisations below: 


In very severe cases, you might need to visit your doctor, and they may recommend in-patient or out-patient treatment. Your doctor is likely to ask questions about your gambling habits and do a mental health assessment, and much of the treatment is likely to include behavioural therapy and help groups. 

In some cases, medications like mood stabilisers may be prescribed to treat some of the behaviours that go alongside problematic gambling.


There’s no denying that gambling – whether online or in person – can be a lot of fun, plus you’ll always stand a chance at walking away with a win. Australians love to gamble on pokies and casino games, and more than 73% of the population gambles, so it’s safe to say that most people won’t develop a gambling addiction, even if they play regularly. But it’s important to keep in mind the fact that gambling addiction can have severe consequences, like the breakdown of relationships. It may even cause financial ruin.

Due to regulations, you’ll find that Australian online casinos provide tools like deposit limits, time limits, and the ability to self-exclude if you want to. It’s a good idea to set deposit limits and stick to responsible gambling practices at all times, even if you don’t feel that you’re at risk of falling into the trap of problematic gambling.

If you want to take part in safe online gambling at casinos and understand why responsible play is so important, we recommend you check out our list of licensed online casinos, all of which provide you with a safe environment to play.

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