Audience members at the launch of the report on gambling and health in Victoria, photo: Paul Jeffers
The first major study of gambling in Victoria in six years has found while fewer people are having a punt, those who do are losing more.
The Study of gambling and health in Victoria presents findings from a 2014 exploration into gambling in Victoria and the prevalence of problem and at-risk gambling.
It found while nearly one in three Victorians don't gamble at all, those who do are gambling more often and betting on different events and activities than they were in 2008.
It also revealed a problem gambling prevalence rate of 14 per cent among regular gamblers who gamble once a week or more.
Foundation chief executive Serge Sardo says while the percentage of people in the problem and moderate-risk categories has not changed significantly, the fact they're gambling more suggests a deepening of the issue.
'The rise in frequency is an alarming indicator that new technology, among other things, is fuelling an increase in problem gambling behaviour.
'Those in the highest risk categories are gambling more often in land-based venues, but they're also more likely to be gambling online on sports and other forms of gambling,' he says.
'The rise in frequency is an alarming indicator that new technology, among other things, is fuelling an increase in problem gambling behaviour.'
The report findings validate changes to the state's problem gambling counselling services made over the past three years.
'Under the foundation's stewardship, we have introduced a new client-centred model, boosted services for Aboriginal and culturally diverse communities, as well as quadrupled funding for prevention programs from $600 thousand to more than $2 million,' Serge says.
The study involved a telephone survey of 13,584 Victorian adults and included mobile-only households for the first time. Led by Sarah Hare from Schottler Consulting Pty Ltd, it was jointly funded by the Department of Justice and the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation and project managed by the foundation.
Sarah Hare on gambling and health in Victoria
- The percentage of people who don't gamble has increased from 27 to 30 per cent.
- The percentage of people in the problem category has changed from 0.7 to 0.81 per cent, which is not statistically significant.
- The percentage of people in the low-risk category has increased from 5.7 per cent to 8.91 per cent.
- People with gambling problems are betting more often on the types of gambling most associated with harm, including:
- pokies – up from 56 times a year to 87 times a year – a 55 per cent increase
- table games – up from 31 times a year to 59 times a year – a 90 per cent increase
- race betting – up from 67 times a year to 203 times a year – 202 per cent increase.
- People in the problem and moderate-risk category spend more and are more likely to lose track of time and money than people in the non-problem category.
- On average, people with gambling problems withdraw more than $300 during a visit and are more likely to lose track of time and money than non-problem gamblers, who withdraw an average $65.
Other key findings include:
- Fewer people are regularly playing the pokies – down from one in five (21 per cent) to one in six (15 per cent), but there has not been a corresponding drop in the prevalence of problem gambling (0.81 per cent or 35,500 Victorians).
- Other forms of gambling have increased, with sports betting up (3.96 to 4.82 per cent) and betting on racing increasing significantly (16.4 to 20.63 per cent).
- One in three gamblers said they may or would use a pre-commitment system to set money or time limits.
How this research might be useful
The study shows while participation in gambling overall and on gaming machines has decreased, the prevalence of problem gambling has not decreased. This was also found in recent studies on gambling in New Zealand and Sweden.
With falling participation not equating to less risk or less harm, the foundation's strategies to prevent and treat problem gambling are as important as ever.
Our treatment services, prevention programs and awareness campaigns will be heavily informed by the study's findings, including:
- the age and gender profiles of problem and at-risk gamblers are changing
- while fewer people are gambling on pokies, those at risk are gambling more intensively, so remain highly vulnerable to problem gambling (particularly given the growing prominence of online gaming machines)
- the increase in race betting and sports betting participation means more people are likely to be at risk through these activities
- 122,500 adult Victorians have experienced problems as a result of someone else's gambling. It is likely this number would be significantly higher if children were included. This was the first study in Victoria to measure harm to family members and friends.
Download the report
You can also find more information and download fact sheets on the Study of gambling and health in Victoria on the foundation website.