Gambling problem for 46pc of poker players

Of the seven million regular gamblers in Australia, 132,000 regularly gamble on poker.
Of the seven million regular gamblers in Australia, 132,000 regularly gamble on poker.

Poker players experience the highest rates of problem gambling, spending a total of more than $200 million per year on the card game, according to new analysis.

A study by the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) found nearly one in two poker players (46 per cent) experience at least one gambling-related problem.

"Poker machines get a lot of attention, sports betting is starting to get more attention; poker, it appears has a population who are quite at risk of gambling problems as well," said lead researcher, Dr Andrew Armstrong.

Researchers at AGRC looked at data collected through the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA) Survey - overseen by the Melbourne Institute on behalf of the Department of Social Services.

For the first time in 2015, the survey included questions on gambling behaviour.

Of the seven million regular gamblers, 132,000 Australians regularly gambled on poker, the data showed.

The annual expenditure on poker averaged $1,758 per player in 2015, a total of $228 million over the year.

Poker players also regularly spent money on other gambling activities, with poker making up to 48 per cent of their total gambling spending.

In total, the average poker player spent $3673 on gambling.

While poker was the least popular gambling activity, the findings showed around 60,000 Australians are at risk of harm, says Dr Armstrong.

"Over a third bet more than they could afford to lose and tried to win back the money they had lost on another day, while around a quarter had been told that they had a gambling problem and had caused financial problems for themselves or their households," he said.

Dr Armstrong said for a quarter of the poker players their gambling had caused physical or mental health problems, prompting him to call for greater awareness of this vulnerable group of gamblers.

Reformed gambler Ian Brett, 47, started playing pub poker as a "way out" of gambling because it didn't cost to play.

But it didn't take long before it became "full-on" for the Sydney resident.

"So it started off just a casual sort of social thing but before I knew it I was playing every night of the week at a venue, and paying for $12, $17 to $22 a night," he told AAP.

Like many of the poker players with a gambling problem, Mr Brett had struggled with a gambling addiction for a long time - having started betting on the horses with his father from a very young age.

"It was the horses for a long time but once the casino come about I started playing blackjack, I was really addicted," he said.

After suffering a nervous breakdown in his early 20s, Mr Brett said he wants to save other gamblers from a similar fate.

Australian Associated Press