How Much Do Australians Lose to Gambling Each Year?

From the amount spent and lost in gambling ventures to the demographic nuances of those who gamble, this article delves into the current state of gambling in Australia.
Last modified: 6th June 2024
William Jolly  |  

Gambling in Australia is more than just a pastime; it's a phenomenon deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of the nation. However, this widespread participation in gambling activities comes with significant economic and social costs.

With Australians shouldering some of the highest per capita gambling losses globally, it's crucial to understand the full scope of this issue.

This article will detail some of the most important - and shocking - statistics on gambling in Australia.

On this page:


Resources for gambling help 

If you or someone you know is experiencing gambling-related harm, you can call the Gambler’s Helpline on 1800 858 858. To access free financial counselling advice, ring the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

To help get your finances back in order after gambling issues, you can also speak to an ASIC-approved financial counsellor.


Gambling Statistics Australia: An Overview

The statistics paint a fairly grim picture of Australian gambling losses. Here are the latest available stats.

See more statistics:

Gambling participation rates

In Australia, gambling is a prevalent activity. Recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that three in four Australians aged 18 and over had gambled in the past year as of 2022. Among those who gambled, almost half (46%) were classified as being at some risk of gambling harm.

This high participation rate includes various forms of gambling, such as lotteries, sports betting, and poker machines. The average number of products gambled on was two, but around one-quarter (23%) of respondents reported gambling on six or more different products.

How much do Australians spend on gambling annually?

A lot. That’s the short answer. For the long answer, we have to look back a few years to 2020-21, which is the last year where complete data is available. 

Across all forms of gambling in every state and territory, Australians spent a total of $197.9 billion in one year: $171 billion of that is just on ‘gaming’ such as lotteries, casinos and poker machines. In comparison, the remaining $26 billion or so is spent on wagering and sports betting.

To put that into perspective, the entire GDP of Ukraine is $161 billion! With that amount of money, you could buy the average Australian house nearly 265,000 times. Per person, that’s an average of $9,884, although that is skewed heavily by large spenders.

How much do Australians lose on gambling each year?

Total gambling expenditure (net losses) in Australia that year was just over $24 billion, a decrease from $25.9 billion in 2018–19. However, this significant fall is primarily due to COVID-19 restrictions and nothing more.

Pper adult gambling expenditure in Australia increased by more than 13% from $1,067.73 to $1,200. Gaming machines alone contribute the bulk of these losses at more than $12 billion.

Did you know that people experiencing gambling harm are four times more likely to use a credit card and are much more likely to have multiple credit cards? More than three-quarters (76%) of gamblers who used credit had built up debt due to gambling.
Source: Productivity Commission, the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (VRGF).

Total real gambling expenditure/net losses ($ billion) in Australia, by product

Men vs women: who gambles more?

Gambling rates differ by gender, with men participating more frequently than women. Nearly half (48%) of Australian men and 28% of women gamble at least weekly; these figures jump to 80.3% for men and 66.2% for women over 12 months.

Most men who gambled spent money on multiple activities, including:

  • horse racing (56%)
  • poker machines (54%)
  • sports betting (46%

Unsurprisingly, losses for men are also higher than for women across all three main categories.

Average expenditure (AUD)
Gambling product(s)OverallMenWomen
Sports (e.g. AFL, NRL)$83 ($20)$98 ($25)$53 ($20)
Racing (including horse, greyhound and harness racing)$93 ($20)$112 ($30)$63 ($20)
Any/all other gambling (e.g. poker machines, casino games, lotteries)$109 ($30)$119 ($30)$92 ($30)
Source: Responsible Gambling Victoria

Gambling losses by state

Total gambling losses unsurprisingly remain highest in the most populated states and territories. For example, New South Wales recorded the highest expenditure ($9.6 billion or $1,508 per capita), followed by Victoria ($4.6 billion or $882 per capita) and Queensland ($3.9 billion or $977 per capita).

Total real gambling expenditure/net losses ($ billion), by state and territory

How do Australian gamblers compare to other countries?

Per capita, Australians have the highest rate of losses to gambling in the world at US $958 each year, nearly $200 per person ahead of Hong Kong in second place and over $500 more than the United States ($421).

So, while places like Las Vegas are synonymous with gambling, Australians are the world leader (or rather, world losers) in gambling.

Why do Australians gamble so much?

These statistics might seem pretty shocking, but when you consider just how ingrained gambling is in the Australian psyche, it starts to make a lot of sense. 

Culturally, politically, socially and economically, gambling is commonly accepted here, much more so than in other countries. It’s pretty much impossible to watch any kind of TV or streaming platform here without being bombarded by sports-betting ads. Comparatively, Italy and Germany have banned all gambling advertisements on TV, radio and the Internet, while our laws have no such restrictions.

Many Asian countries also have strict gambling regulations that only allow gambling in casinos. But in Australia, poker machines are found in the majority of pubs and sports clubs. In fact, Australia has 20% of poker machines worldwide and 80% of those outside of casinos. New South Wales alone has 91,675 machines, equivalent to around 48% of Australia’s (and 10% of the world’s) machines.

In 2022, poker machine losses in pubs and clubs across five states surged last financial year to $14.54 billion, 13.7% higher than pre-COVID times. 

“Australians already lose more to poker machines per capita than any other country in the world, these staggering new loss figures show an industry that is out of control. And these figures don’t even count poker machine losses in our casinos,” said Carol Bennett, CEO of the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

A large majority of Australian adults (77%) believe that gambling is too prevalent in Australia.

How gambling can affect your credit

If you’re someone who likes to gamble every now and then and you know your limit, it won’t impact your credit score directly. But even just a few bets here and there can have some indirect effects, primarily:

  • It can reduce your borrowing power
  • It can eat into your savings
  • It could cause missed repayments in the future
  • It can look unfavourable on bank statements

When applying for credit, a lender or bank will examine your recent financial history and analyse your spending habits, as well as other relevant economic factors, to determine what kind of borrower you might be.

Certain gambling transactions, no matter how small, can immediately be flagged. Many people tend to underestimate their living expenses when asked to provide a figure on a loan application, and these gambling transactions will be identified as a risk. 

At the bare minimum, a lender may ask you to explain these transactions when assessing your application. As this Domain article summarises:

“Banks only have a certain amount of money they can lend. If a credit officer saw a regular expense for a gym or a regular expense for gambling, (I) know which application would be more likely to be approved.”

A rejected loan application can lower your credit score, and gambling is one way to increase your chances of rejection.

Direct effects on your credit score

People experiencing gambling harm or those who’ve started spending far too much on gambling can see their credit score directly affected. Such people are more likely to experience the following:

  • Missing repayments and bills (loan repayments, energy bills, etc.)
  • Take out multiple new loans and credit cards to pay for their gambling
  • Use wage advances and short-term loans
  • Use credit cards that charge a high-interest cash advance fee
  • Experience defaults and bankruptcies
  • Apply for financial hardship

Having too many (or even one) of these listed on your credit report can seriously hurt your chances of getting approved for a loan at all. In other cases, lenders might not offer you their most competitive interest rates.

Tips to reduce your gambling spending

If you’re not experiencing gambling harm but want to cut down on your gambling spending more effectively, here are several tips:

  1. Set a budget and stick to it: Determine a fixed amount you're comfortable spending on gambling and ensure you don't exceed this limit.
  2. Keep track of your gambling: Record how much you spend over time. This can help you stay aware of your habits and make more informed decisions. Some mobile apps can now help you track and categorise your spending.
  3. Use self-exclusion tools: Many online gambling platforms offer self-exclusion tools that allow you to take a break from gambling for a set period.
  4. Get a gambling block: an increasing number of banks now have credit and debit cards that come with a ‘gambling block’ feature, which can prevent you from making gambling transactions entirely. 
  5. Use cash instead of credit: Using cash for gambling helps maintain a tangible sense of the amount being spent, reducing the risk of overspending.
  6. Take regular breaks: Breaks can help you clear your head and make better decisions about your gambling activities.

Seeking help and support

If gambling becomes a problem, numerous resources offer confidential help and support. If you or someone you know is experiencing gambling-related harm, you can call the Gambler’s Helpline on 1800 858 858. To access free financial counselling advice, ring the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. You can also speak to an ASIC-approved financial counsellor.


Written by - William Jolly

Content Manager
William is the Content Manager at Jacaranda Finance. He has worked as both a journalist and a media advisor at some of Australia's biggest financial comparison sites such as Canstar, Compare the Market and Savings.com.au, and is passionate about helping Australians find the right money solution for them.

You can get in touch with William via williamj@jacarandafinance.com.au.
Related Topics