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The Australian National University

Regulating social problems: The pokies, the Productivity Commission and an Aboriginal community

Discussion Paper 269 / 2004


Australia has 21 per cent of the world’s electronic gaming machines—more commonly known as poker machines. Deregulation of the industry has expanded the availability of gaming machines to an extent unprecedented in the western world. As a result there are estimated to be approximately 300,000 problem gamblers in Australia, an unknown number of whom are Indigenous Australians. This discussion paper documents the first successful Aboriginal use of regulation in order to prevent the installation of electronic gaming machines—a case that took place in South Australia in 1998. At around the same time, the Productivity Commission was conducting an inquiry into Australia’s gambling industries. This discussion paper, offered in part because of the dearth of published material on contemporary Indigenous gambling, discusses how the Productivity Commission dealt with Indigenous gambling and draws some conclusions from the South Australian case.

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2004_DP269.pdf1.28 MB