AIM To illustrate ways in which industry control over the gambling market and its regulatory system have enabled rapid proliferation in gambling consumption and harm. METHOD To discuss the relationship between government regulation and the accessibility, marketing and technologies of electronic gambling machines in Australia and New Zealand. FINDINGS The regulatory framework for gambling in both countries has encouraged highly accessible, regressively distributed and heavily marketed high-impact electronic gambling machines. This framework has developed in large part through the conjunction of government revenue needs and the adaptation of a folk model of gambling appropriated by gambling businesses and engineered to incorporate a discourse that legitimates their gambling businesses. CONCLUSION Governments should be encouraged to invest in 'upstream' public health strategies that contain the economic and social drivers for intensifying gambling consumption. One key aspect involves questioning the most suitable scale, location and marketing of gambling operations, and the reliance of government on gambling revenues (whether directly or as substitution for other government expenditure). Technological solutions to disrupt the development of obsessive gambling habits are also available and are likely to reduce gambling-related harm.