Guest Post: Gambling in Australia

April 15th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by :

Australians are incessant, almost pathological gamblers.

If two kookaburras land on a tree miles in the outback, it’s a fair bet that within minutes a bookie is making odds as to which one will fly away first.

Latest figures available show $69 a year is bet for every man, woman and child in Australia.

“Most forms of are legal in Australia, and the activity is highly popular. The average adult Aussie will lose about $1,000 (US $679) on each year. This means that Australians lose more money per adult at than any other group on the planet. This number has increased 2½ times over the last 25 years. In fact, more money is spent on than on sporting, cultural or entertainment events.” -world review website.

Australia, with 360, has more racecourses than any other country in the world. Poker machines make up 56% of the gambling industry here. In Brisbane you can go to a race meeting every day of the week if you want. Within two hours drive there are courses at Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Ipswich, Beaudesert, Gold Coast plus two in the city, Eagle Farm and Doomben, the two just across the road from each other.

Gambling addiction is a huge problem, a 2010 report by one hospital showed 17% of attempted suicides were problem gamblers.

Recently the Gillard Government, cheered on by Independent Andrew Wilkie, threatened to introduce “mandatory pre commitment” for pokie gamblers. This would require EVERY gambler to set a limit before he, or she, said down to mindlessly pull a handle or push a button.

This was well intentioned nonsense. Firstly, it treated all gamblers as if they were addicts, and secondly, a gambler could set any limit at all, from $1 to a gazillion. The Lib/Nat coalition’s response was even worse: they proposed voluntary pre commitment. What’s next, asking every smoker to sign a piece of paper saying they wouldn’t take more than two puffs a day, but nothing would happen to them if they didn’t keep their promise?

The chartered clubs, a huge industry here, went ballistic. They rely on pokie revenue to such an extent that one club near where I live offers lifetime membership for $1. No, not $1 a year, a buck for the rest of your life!

But the clubs did a very clever thing. Rather than taking up the example of the billionaires of the mining industry and entering a full on war which made the newspapers lots of money in advertising, the clubs kept their powder dry and sat down and talked to the government. It worked and the legislation was watered down.

Wilkie went into a sulk, Abbott looked silly and, for once, Gillard pulled a handle and landed the aces. Labor backbenchers, reliant on gambling votes, heaved a huge sigh of relief,

Bookmakers are legal in Australia. In NZ they are not, except for the TAB, which can offer what is called “fixed prices”. “Tote odds” are also available.

Tote odds means the winners receive back all the money gambled, less taxes and the TAB’s take. That way the TAB doesn’t care which horse wins, the total payout is always the same.

A bookie sets his own odds relying on his skill and knowledge. So he hopes an outsider wins so he doesn’t have to pay out much. When a hot favourite gets rolled, the bookies smile.

The NZ TAB is, in my opinion, a rotten bookie. The moment a horse is subject to a decent bet it brings its price down. A good bookie, confident in his knowledge and ability would keep the price the same and invite a big punter to “have another go”.

There are legends of battles between big (and I mean BIG) punters and top bookies. One tells of a punter who put $250,000 on a 10-1 shot. Come again, smiled the bookmaker and put the price up two points. The punter wagered another 250k. The horse lost.

In my heyday I enjoyed a punt. Not big, the most I ever put on a horse was $200 at 10-1. It won easily.

I once collected over $3000 for a $10 bet. I bet that four horses in different races would all run a place at good odds and they all did.

Gambling can be fun or can lead to misery. The simple rule is: Don’t gamble money you can’t afford to lose.

Good punting!

I consider our gaming laws relics from Queen Victoria. Some changes I would make:

  • Remove the TAB monopoly on sports betting
  • Allow Internet gambling (esp as Kiwis just user overseas sites anyway)
  • Allow any Casino operator that meets good character tests to set up a casino in a suitable area
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6 Responses to “Guest Post: Gambling in Australia”

  1. dog_eat_dog (772 comments) says:

    This guy needs to learn the value of information to a market when it comes to our TAB. A horse with the eighth-ranked odds that suddenly shortens has clearly had a major bet bet put on him. Meanwhile, a horse with narrower odds over two or three tote updates is clearly more preferred by the market and able to attract interest consistently. I’d be more concerned if the TAB’s odds were being rigged to ensure maximum investment by the punter as opposed to functioning as to indicate a clear favourite.

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  2. Brian Smaller (4,036 comments) says:

    I must be one of the few males over 40 in this country who has never even set foot inside a TAB. A lotto ticket is my vice if I remember to get one.

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  3. hj (6,794 comments) says:

    Another touchy subject (gambling- Sky City) Brian Edwards very good on The Panel (Michelle Vogue very bad…pitiful infact).

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  4. Punter Pete (10 comments) says:

    Firstly, Punter Pete is Peter Freedman. I had all sorts of trouble getting back on to this blog after a major computer glitch.

    dog_eat_dog, I take your point, but finally a bookie should rely on his own judgement, not automatically drop the price of a horse simply because he has taken a big bet on it.

    Firstly the TAB doesn’t have to accept any bet. So if someone wants $25k on an 8-1 shot, the TAB can always offer him lower odds, say 6-1, yet keep the price at 8-1 for other punters.

    My opinion of the TAB as bookies is that they use judgement only to set the opening odds, then simply move when the market moves. That’s not true bookmaking.

    The TAB needs competition. I’m sure there are Aussie bookies who would love to set up NZ operations. Bookies add atmosphere and colour to race days and give punters some real choice.

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  5. Sam Hill (37 comments) says:

    I make money every week using the TAB online. It’s legal already.

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  6. PaulL (6,012 comments) says:

    Interesting post from Peter – I don’t agree on much here, but it’s thought provoking.

    But I’ll call you on the statistics:

    Latest figures available show $69 a year is bet for every man, woman and child in Australia

    The average adult Aussie will lose about $1,000 (US $679) on gambling each year.

    So, those are pretty crappy deals – to bet $69 and lost $1,000. I’m guessing really that the average gambler loses $1,000 (not every Australian), and the roundness of that numbers tells me it’s probably made up.

    So, guessing I’m right there, Australians on average bet $69 per year, those who gamble lose $1,000. So 1 in 20 gamble?

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