(Investigator 107, 2006 March)


Gamblers – whether at horses, "scratchies", lotteries, casinos, or "pokies" – mostly lose.

South Australian poker machine players, for example, lost over $4,300 million from 1994 to 2003. The losses rose steadily year after year commencing with $66 million in 1994 and rising to $695 million in 2003. (Sunday Mail 2004 January 18, p9)

Gamblers have to lose because the odds are against them.

The odds in legal gambling are set so that, on average, players lose about 11% of what they bet. For example, the turnover on pokies in South Australia in 2003-2004 was $6,500 million and the amount lost by players was $723 million, which works out to about 11%. (The Advertiser 2004 July 24, p7)


The financial controller of a trucking corporation transferred money electronically from his employer to bookmakers and lost over $18 million mainly on horses. He will be in jail for many years. (The Advertiser 2004 December 4, p7)

The general manager of an amateur cricket association almost ruined it by defrauding it of $66,000 to finance his gambling. (The Advertiser 2004 July 10, p5)

A Vietnam war veteran lost $30,000 on pokies in one year. He funded this with his credit card and by re-financing his home. (Sunday Mail 2004 August 8, p25; October 31, pp 12-13)

A teenage Chinese student lost the money that was supposed to finance his studies – over $40,000 – in the Adelaide Casino. (The Advertiser 2004 December 4, p13)

A retired couple lost their entire $200,000 superannuation pay out. (Sunday Mail 2004 November 21, p22)

A football star gambled for 15 years "which left him virtually penniless when he retired in 2002." (The Advertiser 2005 July 16, p118)

A gambling hotline for pokie players produced numerous reports of people losing and some forced to sell their house. (Sunday Mail 2004 November 28, pp 32-33)


Losing is inevitable in the long run, which can be learned from books on statistics and probability. Just ask any highschool-year-12 mathematics student! Any gambler who thinks he's certain to win is taking a stand against science, mathematics, and the way the Universe works!

Although the students know this, many don't act on it:

A staggering 9000 high-school students are gambling at least once a week in South Australia. (Sunday Mail 2004 March 21, p5)    
Consider a simple gambling game in which you and I each take a card at random from an ordinary deck of cards. The lower card loses and the loser pays the winner $20. The two cards are then returned and the deck reshuffled and we play again. But here's the catch: In your case an Ace counts as the lowest card and loses every time, but when I get an Ace it counts as the highest card and always wins.

Probably no gambler would play this game with me because he knows that on average he will lose more often. My advantage, however, is only about equal to that of the poker machines.


Back in 1992 it was predicted: "There are an estimated 8000 compulsive gamblers in South Australia. This number is expected to surge with the introduction of poker machines in hotels and clubs." (The Advertiser 1992 November 18, p15)

The prediction proved correct. By 2001 SA had 22,000 problem gamblers of whom 10% had broken the law to support their habit. (Sunday Mail 2001 October 7, p22)

Addiction develops due to rewarding feelings such as:

  • The excitement of being there and of placing bets;
  • The tension build-up prior to betting and its release after the outcome;
  • The thrill of winning which creates a desire to repeat the thrill;
  • The social involvement being with others doing the same thing.
  • Addicted gamblers gradually place bigger and bigger bets to get the same "buzz" and to try to recoup losses.


    Australia has 300,000 problem gamblers with a knock-on effect on two million other people – kids, family, and employers. Many businesses lose income and dismiss employees because when people lose money on gambling it’s unavailable to spend on other things.

    Gambling losses also increase debt. Australia-wide $16 billion is lost at gambling each year. That's $800 per person per year. Personal debt, including credit cards, stood at $5,500 per Australian in 2004, and the average home loan debt was $24,000. (The Advertiser 2004 October 30, p38) If gamblers stopped gambling and used the money to pay off their debts many could be debt-free within a few years.

    The Adelaide Casino has announced a $20 million redevelopment, which will create 250 new jobs. (The Advertiser 2005 April 2, p9) Who pays for it? Ultimately the gamblers, because gamblers mostly lose.