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Victoria, Australia: Poker-holics Top 55,000

Victoria, Australia --- Official reports indicate that more than 55,000 of its population is addicted to playing poker. 55,675 adult Victorians to be exact.

The Bracks government revealed this staggering number June 16th. A vast majority of this number is addicted to poker machines.

During questioning by a parliamentary committee Gaming Minister John Pandazopoulos disclosed the said poker statistic. According to him, about 7750 gambling addicts are currently undergoing counseling.

Based on the Government's latest survey on the industry, on the whole, Victorian gamblers are losing more than $4.372 billion a year - more than half of it being guzzled up by poker machines.

The alarming statistics have prompted poker giants Tattersall's and Tabcorp to formulate a plan to assuage the numbers, they have come up with launching their own Responsible Gambling Awareness Week. In the week long program, Poker addicts will be warned and counselled about the dangers of excessive gambling at all the state's gaming venues. The program is set to be launched on the final week of June.

In the course of the program, gaming staff will be wearing Responsible Gambling badges and T-shirts, all the while offering talk to poker and other gaming patrons about the dangers of their product. The government-backed initiative is to receive heavy radio and TV advertisement.

Industry critics have criticized the move, saying that it has been conveniently timed to coincide with the Government's review of gaming licences. License renewals are set for early next year.

Undoubtedly, the tax generated from casino gaming is a big contributor to the state's treasury. May budget papers revealed the Bracks Government collected $4.26 million a day in gambling taxes -- $50 every second. The poker addicts tax grab alone amounts to more than $1 billion.

Gambling losses at Crown casino total $922 million, and $615 million is lost on wagering and sports betting at Tabcorp outlets and other agencies and outlets. Meanwhile, more than $435 million is lost by lotto players.

Some opposition hopefuls for next elections are quick to use this as leverage for their campaign. Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu has promised to decrease poker addict numbers by 5000 if he wins the November 25 state election. The Government is expected to announce its own election policy on casino gaming in the coming weeks. Mr Pandazopoulos said in June 16's parliamentary committee questioning that the Cabinet is close to finalizing plans to extend its regional cap system into five more of the state's vulnerable communities.


August 27, 2006
Brian Nelson

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