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In the Anglosphere, and the wider world, attitudes towards betting vary a lot.

After historically being puritanical, the USA is opening things up, while China retains a hardline opposition to betting (Macau excepted), despite card games having been invented here.

But from dicing in the streets of Greece and Rome, to a horse-betting obsession in Britain, it’s Australians who may just be the world’s best gamblers. 

Just as prolific travelers as they are bettors, watch out for the Aussies returning to international casino tourism now that international borders have been announced to reopen.

Are Aussies The World’s Best Gamblers?

Australia’s Outstanding Beauty and Great Casinos

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One area where Australia really shines is in the brick-and-mortar real estate of betting – casinos. And there are some truly beautiful setups.

The most beautiful casinos in Australia offer the chance to combine Australia’s best casinos with stunning surroundings, whether located in the dazzling lights of Melbourne, or the evocative setting of a former rail station.

But perhaps the best option for those who like the great outdoors might be the Country Club Tasmania, which offers a relaxed approach to life alongside boutique comfort.

When not spinning reels or playing cards, visitors can take advantage of the pool or horse riding to stay in shape, with beautiful natural scenery to explore just a little further afield.

Australia also benefits from having fantastic distractions to enjoy beyond the casino door, from the Great Barrier Reef to swimming with whale sharks and skiing at Falls Creek.

This mixture of great casinos and excellent outdoor attractions is what makes Australia such a hit with overseas bettors, and the key to why betting has become part of the Aussie lifestyle.

How Many Aussies Gamble?

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Betting is big business in various parts of the world, but Australians have long been at or near the top of the tree when it comes to betting patterns.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, almost two out of five (39%) regularly bet. This comes to 6.8 million people playing the lottery, trying their hand at scratch cards, and playing pokies (whether online or in real-world casinos).

So, how much do Aussies bet? Well, a lot. The pokies (slots) in New South Wales alone generated profits of $6.5bn in 2019. And that’s just one type of betting, in one state.

Six out of 10 Canadians gamble, by way of comparison, although four in 10 (43%) bet only between $1 and $20 per month. Around 47% of Britons bet, with an average weekly spend of a rather small £2.60.

Do Aussies Finish Ahead or Behind?

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Unfortunately, there’s one area of betting where Australians are undoubtedly top dog, and that’s gambling losses.

H2 Gambling Capital conducted a gambling survey in 2017 that found (in USD) that the average Australian result over the course of a year was a loss of $958, more than any other country in the world.

New Zealand was fifth in the list but less than half as bad, with annual average losses of $454, with the USA on $421 and Canada on $382.

According to the Australian Gaming Council, in 2017-18 Australians lost a combined total of $24.89bn gambling. It’s an achievement nobody really wants but when it comes to the biggest losers on average, Aussies lead the way.

That said, the average figures are affected by certain factors, and when you look at the high proportion of the population that wagers regularly it’s perhaps not too surprising that Australians have the highest average losses.

And there are always exceptions, from sly card sharks who know that playing single deck blackjack and keeping track of the cards actually turns the small house edge into an advantage for the player to the man who lost his job due to lockdown only to scoop an $80m Powerball jackpot.

Most Popular Betting Categories in Australia

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Gaming machines sit top of the league, with $12.5bn spent on them in 2017-18. Casinos come in second place with $5.1bn of gambling expenditure, followed by $1.9bn on the Lotto.

Gaming altogether accounted for more than $20bn, with just over $3.5bn on racing and $1.2bn on sports betting, showing the predominance of the gaming sector.

This is not especially surprising, as Australians are renowned for their love of pokies. In fact, Australia has one in five of all pokies in the world, due to them being permitted not only in casinos but outside them as well.

Resilience in the Face of COVID-19

The whole world was rocked by the pandemic, and Australia (and New Zealand) found themselves in the position to be able to isolate from much of the rest of the world more easily than densely populated Europe and other countries.

Naturally, casino betting for both Aussies and tourists was hit hard, but the cultural fixture of betting and the substantial tourist revenue visitors provide makes it highly likely the sector will bounce back once the pandemic is behind us all.

Australia is home to some great casinos within easy reach of renowned tourist attractions such as the Sydney Opera House, so if you’re a globe-trotting gambler this is definitely one nation you should be considering visiting.

As always, we urge you to gamble responsibly. 

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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