Betting the house
THE gambling industry is set to win a bit less money from the world's punters this year. Gross winnings (total take minus payouts, excluding expenses) are forecast to dip by 2.6% to $488 billion, according to H2 Gambling Capital, a British consultancy, partly because of China's corruption clampdown in Macau, where revenues have been tumbling. The industry's winnings are, of course, the punters' losses. Asia is home to the unluckiest punters on a per-adult basis. Australians gamble (and lose) the most: an estimated $1,130 for every adult in the country, owing to a highly penetrated bricks-and-mortar market and a high propensity to gamble. A sizeable share of the losses are spent on "pokies" or video-poker machines. Australia has the highest concentration of such machines in the world, on which a person can lose over $1,500 an hour, though tighter regulation on these have seen the country fall to sixth place in absolute terms in recent years. A review of outdated regulations governing interactive gambling (sports betting and other games played on mobile phones, computers etc.) is underway. The law, enacted in 2001, is so ambiguous that some onshore operators are skirting restrictions that specify bets placed while a sporting event is happening must be made solely by telephone or in person and not online, by suggesting bettors turn on their mobile-phone microphones.