Casino gambling is a much-loved pastime of individuals all over the world. That being said, each person has their own preferences and habits in terms of when they gamble, how they gamble, and which games they prefer to play. Gambling also has a different effect on the economy of each nation, and that in large part has to do with the place of gambling and the prevalence of casinos in each place. In studying Australian gambling habits and Australian gambling statistics, we’ve come up with a number of interesting assessments of Aussies at play.
A Bit of Background on Gambling in Australia
Some interesting gambling facts in Australia: according to the Australian Government’s Report on Gambling, around 70% of Australians participated in some form of gambling in the past year. The growing popularity of gambling is in no small part due to the liberalisation of gambling that has been going on since the 1990s. That in turn has created tremendous growth in the gaming industry, with almost $20 billion dollars now spent by Australians on this pursuit each year.
All of this grew from a humble local start, with the opening of the first legal local casino at the Wrest Point Hotel in Hobart, Tasmania in 1973.
Games Aussies Play
Approximately 600,000 Australians, or 4% of the adult population, play slot machines (better known by locals as “Pokies”) once a week. “Scratchies” and lotteries are also highly popular amongst the locals. Next in terms of popularity are table games like roulette and blackjack, wagering, and increasingly, online gambling.
Whilst scratchies are particularly well loved and played, they’re not where Aussies’ big money is spent. Dollar for dollar, the biggest output is on electronic gaming machines, which account for 62% of locals’ gambling spending. That’s particularly amazing considering the average Aussie doesn’t even play them! In fact, it was reported that 70-75% of adults surveyed do not use them in any given year. But the big numbers come thanks to big spends by EGM lovers, with those who play on a weekly basis spending an average of around $7-8K per year.
Here’s another astonishing fact: whilst Australia is the 53rd largest in terms of population, it is the country with the absolute highest number of gaming machines by a long shot – with full one fifth of the world’s supply! In fact, there are some 100,000 poker machines in the state of New South Wales alone! That’s more machines per capita than any other place on planet earth – practically putting Vegas to shame!
Gambling Is Good for the Economy – Especially the Taxes!
Whatever your take on gambling, one thing can’t be denied – it’s been good for the Australian economy. Gambling taxes alones amount to approximately 10% to 12% of state and territory tax revenues. This comes to over $5 billion each year. The federal government also makes decent cash through Australia's taxation equivalent to VAT. Astonishingly, gambling taxes (56.9%), income tax (20.4%) and GST payments (9.7%) constitute a whopping 87% of total taxes paid! If you think you pay a lot of different taxes, have a look at the many taxes casinos are paying, and you’ll think yours are simple in comparison.
But it’s not all mandatory pay the local casinos make. They’re also well known for making significant contributions via donations and sponsorships to a long list of charities, special causes, cultural events, and even sporting groups. In the past, Australian casinos have contributed to the Cerebral Palsy League, Royal Children's Hospital, the Salvation Army, the Association of Surf Safe Appeal, Police Legacy Bowls Day, Children's Wards of Gold Coast Hospitals, Paradise Kids Cricket Challenge, Paradise Kids Charity Golf Day and Movember. In 2009-10 alone the total contribution to such causes from the casino industry came to over $9.6 million.
Gambling’s Part of the Australian GDP
A country’s GDP (gross domestic product) is the major indicator of the size of its economy. GDP is measured in terms of the total value of all the goods and services that the particular country has produced in any given year. The basic calculation is made by adding up the sum of gross investment, private consumption, government spending and exports, minus the value of imports, as well as the cost of goods and services that were used in production of the aforementioned. Whilst not a huge contributor to Australia’s overall GDP, gambling does pay a direct part in contributing to the size of Australia’s economy in the following ways:
If you add up all the numbers, you will see that gambling and related activities directly make up about 1% of Australia’s GDP. Another way in which the gambling business contributes to the Australian economy is in terms of capital expenditure. This has been on the rise for over a decade now, as the Australian land-based casino industry grows. In fact, in less than a decade capital expenditure on casinos in Australia has grown more than four-fold from $180 million in 2002-2003, up to $739 in 2009-2010. These capital expenditure numbers are expected to grow even more thanks to casino development taking place in Sydney and Queensland.
Working in the Business
The gambling industry is also a big employer in Australia. Rough estimates have at least some 70,000 people employed in hotels with gambling, another 60,000 plus in clubs with gambling, and an additional 20,000 employed in casinos.
Whilst there is a huge range of salaries reported in the industry, plenty of people are making good money working in casino related fields. Croupiers have reported an average annual income of $50,000. Surveillance operators have reported the same $50,00 salary. At the top of the scale are dealers, who can easily come home with an average of $80,500 each year. Because the casino industry must keep a large number of individuals on staff, and has been shown to pay fair wages, employment expenses (i.e. wages and salaries) constitute the industry’s single largest expense. In fact, a full 40% of casino industry’s total operating expenditure is paid to labour related issues.
Casino Career Options
There is also a very wide range of career options available within the casino world in Australia. Jobs include non-skilled labour such as house keeping and cleaning staff, up to highly trained (and likewise compensated) managers.
The type of employment casinos offer is suitable to many lifestyles. Whilst just over half of casino employees work in their positions full-time, an almost equal number work in part-time and casual positions.
Location of Casino Jobs
And where do all these people work you ask? The answer: At casinos, clubs and resorts all over Australia. Whilst the highest percent by far work in the Australian gambling centres in New South Wales and Queensland, there is a nice spattering in South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory as well.
Gambling Is a Big Part of Business
All these people employed in the casino industry is easily justified when considering what a large part gambling plays in each business’ bottom line Land-based casinos derive a full 78% of their revenue from gambling, clubs are earning 61% of their revenues from gambling, and hotels with casinos garner 28% of their revenue from gambling.
Where Does Local Game Play Rank in Terms of Spending?
As mentioned, Aussies love their gambling. But just how much? Well put in hard numbers – a lot! Compare how much they spend on necessities like petrol ($15.27 per week), or other leisure activities like drinking ($10.99 per week), and gambling comes out ahead at $17.52 each week.
Land-Based Casinos Down Under
When people think of going on a gambling vacation, it’s not all that likely that they think of Australia as their top choice. But if that’s the case, it’s probably because they aren’t quite in the know. The Land Down Under has some truly spectacular casinos, built to impress both locals and tourists alike. A number of mega casinos dominate the map including:
Star City(Sydney) – An outlandishly large complex the astonishing size of seven football fields.
Conrad Treasury Casino(Brisbane) – Reminiscent of Monte Carlo.
Entertainment Complex(Melbourne) – Australia’s biggest (and one of the largest on a global scale), attracting over 12 million visitors each year.
Two local Australian casinos have also made it to the top 100 list of global tourist attractions. The Crown Casino in Melbourne is ranked in 17th position, whilst Jupiter’s Casino on the Gold Cost is ranked as 18th – each with about 11 million visitors passing through their doors, each year.
Other leading Australian casinos all of which are members of the Australasian Casino Association are:
- Adelaide Casino
- Sky City Darwin
- Treasury Casino & Hotel
- Casino Canberra
- Lasseters Hotel Casino
- Wrest Point
- Country Club Tasmania
- The Reef Hotel Casino
- Burswood Entertainment Complex
Together, Australia’s casinos produced gross revenue of over $4.4 billion in 2009-10. This is an average compounded gross revenue growth rate of about 4.9%, from the starting point of $3.1 billion in 2002-03.
In terms of driving revenue, gaming machines constitute 40% of the casinos’ gambling intake (at a total of $1,382 million). Table gaming is the next largest earner at about 38% of gambling money spent ($1,312 million). International and commission revenue make up the final big chunk, at 21% (or $707 million).
From Where Are They Coming to Play?
Who’s playing at these casinos? That’s the next big question. As might be expected, the majority of visitors at the local casinos are from either the same city or state in which the casino is found, followed by patrons from neighbouring states, and finally international visitors.
Australian casinos are in fact becoming increasingly important in the national tourism market. This of course has a positive impact on the local economy. Whilst the visitors’ stays are good for the GDP, they have also shown an increasingly large role in the national GVA (gross value added), from net taxes levied on tourism products.
The growth of Australian casinos and casino resorts is also reflected in terms of their increasing popularity as sites for hosting events such as international conferences, meetings, and exhibitions.
Catering to VIP Players
Here’s an interesting tidbit. Ever wonder why VIP players seem to get better care? Well according to the statistics, they’re worth the investment. In fact, according to the Australasian Casino Association Report of 2010, international VIP program players contributed a full 20.1% of the casinos’ total gaming revenue.
Online gambling – which includes casino and poker games – is increasingly popular amongst Australians. The official 2010 Productivity Report of the Australian Government found that the amount spent on online gaming has quickly grown to some $800 million. This is in large part due to the accessibility of online gambling websites, as well as the better pricing and bigger variety of games that they offer (generally in comparison to land-based casinos), such as online pokies, the Australian slang term for slot machines.
Social Casino Gambling
Types of gamblers can be categorized in many different ways. By game preference, wagering habits, or medium for play – Internet, social casino or land-based (see above). Social casino, for those unfamiliar, refers to games that are played for free online. These games feature gambling motifs, but do not pay winnings in monetary funds. The most popular social casino games amongst Australian are poker, casino table games, and gaming machines.
A Bit of Demographics
The demographics for land-based casino gamblers, social casino gamblers, and online gamblers are all a bit different. Overall, when making a comparison between player types, social casino players have more similarities with Internet gamblers than land-based gamblers. Not surprisingly, as such, Internet gamblers are more likely than land-based gamblers to make the cross over to play social casino games.
Approximately one-fifth-one-third (or 18-32%) of social casino gamers are under the age of 30, whilst 18% of those who gamble online and 25% of those playing in land-based casinos are in the under-30 demographic. That makes social casino gamblers the youngest group.
Social gaming tends to be the preferred choice of women. In fact, evidence shows the typical social casino gamer to be a 35 year-old woman. Women over 40 tend to make up the typical user profile for online bingo players, online casino players and those who prefer electronic gaming machines in land-based casinos. Men on the other hand dominate online poker – both in social and real money play formats. Men are also far more likely to bet on races and sports, both for real money wagers.
The typical social gamer has a relatively high socio-economic profile, with 40% having obtained a college degree or higher, 35% working in a full-time position, 25% working in a managerial or professional capacity, and a full 23% earning a household income of $70,000 or more per year. The typical online gambler has a rather similar profile. According to statistics, those who gamble online tend to be educated at a university level, work in a full-time job, and have a higher than average annual household income. It is important to keep in mind, however, that these numbers are self-reported, by a self-selected group of individuals who responded to online surveys. Therefore, there might be more of a correlation between the reported level of socio-economic background and the likelihood of responding to online surveys, than an exact demographic assessment of Australian gamblers. Still, it gives us a decent picture of what local gamers look like.
Keeping Things Safe
Although Aussies are known to be a fun-loving folk, they’re also big on keeping things safe. That’s why a number of local policies are implemented to keep locals’ gambling under control. Sensible gambling is promoted by the casino and club owners, who hand out leaflets explaining in detail the small odds of winning. By law, all gambling machines are also equipped with warning signs, as well as digital clocks so that people can easily keep track of how long they have been playing. In New South Wales, a Responsible Gambling Fund (RGF) was created by the Casino Control Act 1992 which requires Sydney casino operators to pay a 2% responsible gambling levy on gross gaming revenue. The money from this fund supports local responsible gambling initiatives, including awareness and education undertakings, counselling and support services, and related research activities.
Conclusions on Gambling in Australia
Based on all studies, it seems to be that gambling in Australia is a well-loved pastime – with a lot of positive impact on the economy – that is here to stay. Thanks to government regulations, gambling is now safer than ever both in the online and offline realms. This means Australians are free to continue wagering in all the formats they so enjoy including the pokies, the scratchies, the many land-based casinos that scatter the land, and of course, online gambling websites.
Australian Gambling Habits Infographic
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