Pandemic Sends Australia's Slots Gambling Problem Online OKBET Slots Update

Pandemic Sends Australia’s Slots Gambling Problem Online | OKBET Slots Update

For Rhys Wareham, a coffee industry technician from Sydney, the start of COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 meant not just staying at home, but also having to quit going to the pub every afternoon to bet on poker machines.

So he turned to a smartphone app that allows him to track wagers on his favorite sport, baseball, no matter where he is.

“The slots gambling itself doesn’t end,” said Wareham, 31, who has a young child and is two-thirds of the way through repaying a A$30,000 ($19,968) gaming debt that bankrupted him eight years ago.

“Whatever hundreds of dollars I was spending in the afternoons at the pubs is now going into sports betting apps.”

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Already the world’s largest slots gambling nation in terms of loss per person, Australia has seen a shift in betting behavior since the pandemic-forced closing of public venues.

Data reveal that gamblers’ losses on poker machines decreased for the first time during the pandemic, albeit at a much slower rate than an unprecedented growth in money lost on apps. As a result, more players will be exposed to an industry that is more difficult to police than traditional gaming.

In recent years, Australia’s slots gambling industry has been in the limelight, with public inquiries chastising its biggest casino operators for lax money-laundering safeguards. Online slots gambling has also been the subject of inquiries, but with its increasing popularity, the government has responded to consumer advocates with a commitment to look into it more. read more read more

The majority of app providers are foreign, such as London-listed Flutter Entertainment PLC (FLTRF.L), owner of the most popular betting app in Australia, Sportsbet, and Entain PLC (ENT.L), owner of the third-ranked app Ladbrokes. Unlike venues, they profit from marketing strategies such as text message-based promos that lie beyond the reach of gambling slots advertising laws.

According to data from Monash University’s School of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, gamblers lost A$11.4 billion on poker machines in 2021, a decrease of A$1.1 billion or 17% from 2019, the year before lockdowns began.

However, losses in online sports betting increased by A$3.2 billion, or 80%, to A$7.1 billion during the same period, according to numbers provided by industry consultancy H2 slots Gambling Capital, which excluded credit frequently awarded in promotions.

In comparison, global online sports betting losses increased by 58%. According to H2, Australia has surpassed Britain, which has roughly three times its population, to rank third in terms of online loss, trailing only the United States and Japan.

“Online providers have been fighting for the business of customers who would have bet in land-based facilities,” said H2 senior adviser Ed Birkin.

“The intensity of the lockdown was also a driver of Australia being on the higher end of the online betting growth,” he said, alluding to movement restrictions in place until October 2021.

Sportsbet account numbers have not changed in over a year since lockdowns stopped, according to Flutter filings, whose regular clients represent 6% of Australia’s adult population – one million people.

On September 19, 2022, a person gambles on a poker machine in a tavern in Sydney, Australia. Reuters/Loren Elliott

According to an Entain spokeswoman, the company has “more player safety capabilities than any other operator in the industry, including the use of algorithms that enable us detect hazardous behavior and subsequently intervene.”


After decades of slots gambling liberalization, governments are wary of reversing direction, owing to tax income and industry pressure, despite public anxiety about a habit that costs voters A$25 billion per year – or A$1,000 per person, more than double the United States.

The new center-left federal administration announced this month that it will convene a parliamentary examination into internet slots gambling, while certain recommendations from a 2015 inquiry have yet to be implemented.

Following the previous investigation, state and federal governments decided to create a “self-exclusion” register by May 2020, through which gamblers can exclude themselves from registered betting apps.

The register is “well advanced” but not operational after two years, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which is in charge of it.


As lockdowns rendered many types of socializing illegal, gambling became increasingly appealing to “socially isolated or bored” young males, according to Rebecca Jenkinson, executive manager of the Australian Gambling Research Centre.

“They have 24-hour access to online gaming. They are gambling because it is widely available and extensively advertised.”

Still, poker machines, also known as pokies, are sufficiently ingrained that analysts do not anticipate internet betting to become the country’s principal gambling habit very soon, with locations hosting over 200,000 machines returning to normal operations.

“Australia has pokies as America has firearms,” claimed Wesley Mission, a nonprofit organization that helps problem gamblers, in a policy document.

“It is our national shame, and many of us are ignorant to the pain it is causing people we know and love.”

Wareham, the coffee technician, stated that he no longer uses poker machines and that family duties help him restrict his internet gambling. He no longer spends his entire pay check in one sitting, but he is concerned that others will fare worse.

“Anyone under the age of 25 who thinks there are millions of dollars to be had, there aren’t,” he remarked. “There are millions of dollars to be lost.”

$1 = 1.5024 Australian dollars

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