The Cultural Impact of Gambling in Australia

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It is little exaggeration to say that when the average Australian walks down the street, they are presented with a number of gambling opportunities. From purpose built venues such as race tracks and casinos to the casinos and even pokies in pubs, people rarely have to venture far to indulge in one of the nation’s favourite pastimes. To some outsiders it may even come across as being somewhat excessive, raising the question; just how did gambling become such an Australian national treasure?

The simple answer to the question reflects Australian society in general. It is within the Australian spirit to enjoy the thrills provided by gambling and, in a more negative light; certain issues with society have made it more and more popular, whether the actual reasons are right or wrong. Australians, for example, lose more money through gambling per adult than any other country in the world. Society in the country in general over the years has shaped itself into one of the biggest gambling markets in the world.

One of the key underlying factors of gambling’s popularity is the law. Virtually every form of gambling imaginable is legal, meaning that if an Australian wants to bet on something, the chances are that not only they can, but they can do so in a licenced and regulated establishment. To satisfy demand, there are hundreds of casinos, clubs, licenced pubs and race tracks around the country, each of which acts as a landmark advertising the nation’s appreciation of gambling.

One detailed study into gambling in Australia looked to assess the influence of the subject on the country as a whole, together with its inhabitants. It concluded that gambling was an “essential” part of the Australian lifestyle, and the government was then tasked with ensuring that if it could not cut it down, then it would at least enforce regulations that would safeguard the wellbeing of particularly vulnerable gamblers. It has also brought to the forefront the need to educate young people about the dangers of gambling as, in its unregulated form, the pastime can be somewhat dangerous.

The history of gambling in the country has been put on display in several locations, and traces the roots of the culture to playing cards and dice games that were initially popularised around the world. As the games permeated the Australian mindset, the popularity of alternatives grew, such as the poker machines introduced in the 1900s and even the Australian-invented cash counting machines. There are also numerous famous gamblers or casino regulars littered throughout popular Australian history, such as George Julius, the inventor of the aforementioned totalisator machine, and Robbie and Bill Waterhouse.

Interactive displays at these exhibitions of gambling memorabilia dive deep into the statistical and mathematical functions in many games that a lot of players ignore. It aims to educate players on why certain games became so popular and how house edges work, while also giving them the opportunity to learn more about their favourite games. The exhibitions do, of course, also focus on ensuring that problem gambling is limited, offering assistance and advice to those who have or fear they may develop a problem.


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