THE depth of Australia’s problem gambling is again in the public eye as new figures show the country’s population has stolen over $100 million over the past five years to facilitate their addiction.
Warfield & Associates accountant Brett Warfield released figures that showed 265 criminal convictions involving 267 offenders from 2011 to July of 2016.
The money was stolen either to gamble or to pay off a gambling-related debt.
Mr Warfield said the people committing fraud were in the midst of a crippling gambling addiction.
“It’s just an all-pervading need to gamble,” Mr Warfield said.
“All they see are the lights and sounds and the buzz of whatever it is they’re doing or playing.
“Overwhelming they’re just good people who have got an addiction.”
The largest individual amount stolen was $7.8 million and more than $1 million was fraudulently attained in 26 cases, 20 of which involved workers stealing directly from their employers.
The most common form of theft involved employers processing fraudulent transfers through an employers’ payment system, followed by stealing cash, and issuing of false invoices.
The report found poker machines were the most prevalent form of gambling identified behind the crimes, and women were the culprits in 70 per cent of those cases.
Bernie Durkin, general manager at EACH Social and Community Health said addicts need to have better pathways to getting help from trained professionals before it becomes an unmanageable problem.
“They often try to problem-solve it themselves, and they don’t make very good choices, so it might be that they tend to steal, to pawn various items that belong to the family, to maybe defraud their employer,” Mr Durkin said.
The government must step in to fix “poker machine madness”
DAMNING figures displaying the issues relating to poker machine use in Australia has prompted experts to call for wide spread reform in the gambling industry.
Statistics released regarding the average gambling habits of people in Australia found the nation’s population lost $1,242 per person a year on gambling.
The amount varies state-to-state: in New South Wales the average loss was $1,518, while in Tasmania the average was significantly smaller $762.
Around 75 per cent or more of those directly experiencing harm from gambling do so because of poker machines.
Out of a total of $22.7 billion spent on gambling related activities in 2014-15, $11.6 billion (51 per cent) was lost on poker machines in pubs and clubs.
Shockingly, a recent study found only about 16 per cent of adult Victorians use pokies, which means is the per-capita expenditure of actual users is not an average of $559 per year, but about $3,493.
Monash University Public Health expert Charles Livingstone said sports betting is becoming a problem for Australians, but more is needed to be done to end the impact of poker machines.
“The 600-pound gorilla of Australian gambling is still the pokies.” Dr Livingstone said.
“$12 billion in losses per year, and still growing, year after year. If we’re worried by sports betting, we should be 13 times more worried about the pokies.”
Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesman Tim Costello said state governments could fix the “poker machine madness”, but need to get serious about form.
“[The government will step in] if any of them really cared about the issue,”