Australia, the Gambling Capital of the Southern Pacific

Formal legally recognized gambling has witnessed substantial expansion in recent years in the South Pacific region. Take a look at the recent move by the People's Republic of Vietnam to "carefully" move towards legalizing casino gambling in an effort to build more state revenues.

Nevertheless, the gambling phenomenon has been around for quite a long time in the area and in particular in Australia. From the time of the first European colony in Australia in 1788, gambling has been part of the fabric of life on the world’s largest island. New settlers from the British Isles had participated in games in the Mother Country. Their new society demonstrated a great tolerance for the activity, and it grew throughout the 19th century. However, it was also an activity subject to the reform movements led by church groups at the end of the century and the beginning of the 20th century.

The groups succeeded in having the Gaming and Betting Act of 1906 ban all gaming except that involving horse racing. However, gambling could not be kept down for long. Within a decade, lotteries returned, as did charity games. As a practical matter, many other games persisted even in the face of the law.

Legalized machine gaming “pokies” appeared in the largest state (New South Wales) in the 1950s, and the first legal casino was established in Tasmania in the 1970s.

Australia now offers a multitude of forms of legalized gambling. Collectively, gaming revenues produced revenues (equated with player losses) in excess of $9 billion in 2006. This amounted to wagering losses of about $650 for each adult. Now, Australia’s overall population is about 23 million, with an adult population of roughly 15 million. These losses are almost twice those for average Americans in legal gambling facilities in the United States.