ACT gambling survey supports tougher actions on pokies and online betting
The release last week of the latest ACT Gambling Survey provided strong detail on the prevalence of gambling, its impact and the community’s attitudes to gambling reform in the ACT.
Commissioned by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission (GRC) the survey is completed every five years to better understand gambling trends and impacts in the ACT, which was undertaken by the Australian National University.
The Riotact reports that one-in-ten people report they have experienced harm from gambling in the last 12 months, with more people reporting that a close friend or family member had been impacted by gambling. This equates to 44,000 people (14% of the ACT population) being harmed by their own or someone else’s gambling over the past 12 months.
The survey found that the level of harm for young men, in particular, is a major concern, given that they are gambling at higher rates and report experiencing more harm than women.
Recently, there has been general community concern expressed about the rise of internet gambling. The research findings have revealed an increase with this form of gambling, however the purchase of lottery tickets accounts for the biggest form of online gambling.
Pokies were also found to be the major source of gambling from the study and that playing poker machines is the single most effective predictor of problem gambling.
The results of the study confirm that the risk of gambling harm increasing has a correlation to an increased frequency of playing the pokies.
It noted that people spending more than one hour in a typical session on an electronic gaming machine were more likely to experience harm than not (57.9%).
In contrast, people who spend less than 10 minutes in a typical session had significantly lower risk.
The Riotact suggest that these harms could be reduced by tweaking pokies to introduce sensible limits that will not affect the gamblers who play without experiencing harm.
Regulations have many considerations
Regulatory measures that can facilitate this include pre-commitment, limiting the amount you can bet each spin and limiting access to cash in gambling venues.
This survey has delved deeper into the issue of gambling harm than previous studies where it not only explored gambling harm more generally but also community attitudes to gambling reform.
The survey found that across the community there is a negative view of gambling, and those who suffer gambling harm tend to be greater supporters of regulation. The Canberra community is most concerned about online gambling, mobile apps and poker machines. 64% of survey respondents stated that poker machines do more harm than good.
The study also tested ideas that have been raised by the Productivity Commission, researchers and gambling reform advocates around how regulation may be able to reduce the risk of harm around particularly risky forms of gambling like poker machines.
It found that 71 per cent of people in the ACT were supportive of a pre-commitment scheme in gambling venues, 49% believed that the maximum bet limit on the pokies should be changed, 49% believe that the EFTPOS withdrawal limit should be changed, and 46% believed that the limit for ATMs should be changed.
The Riotact concludes that Canberrans are interested in seeing changes such as the introduction of pre-commitment, reduced access to cash in gambling venues and reduced bet levels per spin, where a large number of people agree that there is no need for gambling to cost an individual more than $1000 per hour.
The study has provided the Canberra community an opportunity to reflect on gambling use within the territory and subsequent measures for change within the industry may result from the findings.