Edition #6: Gambling and sport

Man in a gambling venue with his fingers on the buttons of a pokie machine
Man in a gambling venue with his fingers on the buttons of a pokie machine
Photo: iStock

Knowledgeably speaking

Responsible gambling – towards a new definition

Whenever a commercially available product has the potential for negative consequences to consumers, the question of ‘responsibility’ arises. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that people aren’t harmed from drinking alcohol? That they don’t eat too many sugary and energy-dense foods? That they don’t gamble too much, too often?

As the gambling industry has expanded in Victoria over the past few decades, this has been a key question for decision-makers. Especially as more attention is focused on the social impacts of gambling and the harm that arises from gambling too much, too often.

Who steps up to reduce harm?

The Productivity Commission’s 1999 inquiry into Australia’s gambling industries was, in part, a response to this issue. It placed a spotlight on the role of gambling providers in minimising the harm that can arise from the use of their products. In turn, the gambling industry responded with the responsible provision of gambling in their policies and practices. Evidence of the extent to which these measures are effective in reducing harm is mixed at best.

By the mid to late 2000s, however, ‘responsible provision of gambling’ had been dropped as a term in favour of ‘responsible gambling’. This drove a shift in emphasis from the practice of providers to the behaviours of consumers. Subsequently, the promotion of responsible gambling by government and industry has focused on the role of the individual to seek out information and make informed decisions regarding their gambling.

The principles of responsible gambling

For people to make informed choices about gambling, they need to have access to reliable and consistent information regarding responsible gambling. A 2016 foundation-funded study led by Professor Nerilee Hing found there was no consistent definition of responsible gambling. This is despite the focus on personal responsibility through informed decision-making.

Based on the results of a survey of experts, the report Behavioural indicators of responsible gambling consumption identifies the principles that support the responsible consumption of gambling. These include:

  • affordability – gambling within an individual’s affordable limits of time, money and other resources
  • balance – keeping gambling in balance with other activities, responsibilities and priorities
  • informed choice – exercising informed choice over gambling, which includes understanding the associated risk and knowing the likelihood of losing and winning
  • control – staying in control of gambling through self-regulating one’s own gambling and knowing when to stop
  • enjoyment – being motivated by gambling only for pleasure, entertainment and fun and not to win money
  • harm-free – the absence of gambling-related harm to self and others.

These were combined to form a definition of the responsible consumption of gambling.

Definition of responsible consumption of gambling

Exercising control and informed choice to ensure that gambling is kept within affordable limits of money and time, is enjoyable, in balance with other activities and responsibilities, and avoids gambling-related harm.

Further, 51 behavioural indicators of the responsible consumption of gambling were also developed and endorsed by those participating in the expert survey.

What’s next for responsible gambling?

A reliable definition of the responsible consumption of gambling is an important step forward. However, having a definition of responsible gambling to promote to consumers is only one component of an effective behaviour change strategy.

Consistent with broader public health practice, a longer-term behaviour strategy should also include policy change, reducing the availability of gambling products and restricting gambling marketing.

Download the report:

Behavioural indicators of responsible gambling consumption (PDF - 5741.4 KB)

For more about this report and other new studies, see recent research on the foundation's website.

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