If you live in the Australian Capital Territory, there’s new data available about the gambling habits of you and your neighbours. The ACT Gambling and Racing Commission funded a new report, and it was compiled by the Centre for Gambling Research.

The survey was conducted during a six-week period, and it involved 10,000 adult residents of the ACT. Participants offered data on their gambling habits, as well as expenditure and possible harm.

To further improve the study, the CGR implemented three major changes from the previous 2009 and 2014 surveys. First, they emphasized mobile phone numbers over land lines. Second, they conducted interviews in multiple languages. Third, they increased the sample size to 10,000.

Objectives of the Survey

The Centre for Gambling Research conducted the survey with the following major objectives:

  • Determine the prevalence of problem gambling.
  • Compare with previous surveys to determine changes over time.
  • Determine health and well-being for gamblers and non-gamblers alike.
  • Research the socioeconomic implications of gambling.
  • Develop an understanding of gambling harm.
  • Investigate the level of gambling harm throughout the ACT.

Participation in Gambling

  • Sixty percent of those surveyed admitted to taking part in some form of gambling in the calendar year.
  • Forty-four percent of those surveyed purchased a lottery ticket in the last year.
  • Of the surveyed ACT residents, just over 20% claimed to have purchased a scratch ticket in the last year.
  • Twenty percent stated they had used an electronic gaming machine in the last year.
  • Fourteen percent had wagered on greyhound or horse racing in the previous 12 months.
  • Ten percent participated in sports betting over the last year.
  • Australian males aged 18 to 44 were the most likely to participate in gambling activities ranging from EGMs to table games.
  • Overall, 64% of males had taken part in gambling. Meanwhile, 56% of females engaged in gambling.
  • Residents aged 45 to 59 were, overall, most likely to take part in some form of gambling.
  • Those who never attended college were 39% more likely to gamble than those who did.
  • Native Australians were far more likely to take part in gambling than those born elsewhere.

Frequency of Gambling

  • Of those who gambled in the last year, 33% did it less than 11 times.
  • Twenty-seven percent admitted to gambling 12 or more times in the last year.
  • Men were more likely to be frequent gamblers than women. Of males, those under 30 were more likely to gamble on a regular basis.
  • The most popular forms of gambling in the ACT include (in order) lottery, horse/greyhound racing, sports betting, EGMs, and scratch tickets.

Row of pokies at Casino Canberra

The Cost of Gambling

  • The expenditure on most forms of gambling has declined since the 2014 survey.
  • However, the expenditure at Casino Canberra has increased by 47% since the previous survey.
  • The average loss per ACT resident over the last year was $699.
  • Male gamblers lost 2.5 times more than their female counterparts.
  • The losses of divorced gamblers were 3 times that of married individuals. Furthermore, divorced punters lost twice as much online as their married counterparts.

Spread of Problem Gambling

  • Ten percent of those surveyed reported at least one symptom on the Problem Gambling Severity Index.
  • If spread to the overall ACT population, this would indicate around 34,000 individuals who are problem gamblers or at-risk.
  • ACT males were 3 times more likely than females to be problem gamblers.
  • Males under the age of 30 had a much higher chance of being at-risk than females. Those without a university education were the most likely of all to have a problem.
  • The gambling activities most likely to encourage addiction were casino table games, sports betting, informal games, and EGMs.

Online Gambling

  • Of those surveyed, 20.9% reported gambling online in the last 12 months. Extrapolated across the ACT population, this would amount to around 68,000 players.
  • Males engaged in online gambling at twice the rate of females. Those under 45 were more likely to do so than their older counterparts.
  • Fortunately, there was no evidence to suggest that playing online led to an increase in problem gambling.

Seeking Help

  • Of those who reported problems with gambling, only 24% has sought help during their lifetime. Of those who had, their most common tactic was talking to a family member or friend.
  • In the previous 12 months, only 2% of those with a possible problem sought any form of help.
  • Ten percent of those who had dealt with gambling harm were unsure where to seek help. Non-native Aussies and those above 60 were the most likely to fall into this category.
  • When all respondents were asked where they might seek help, the most common answers were the Internet (50%), problem gambling helpline (15%), and friends/family (12%).

Attitudes toward Gambling

  • The majority of those surveyed seemed to have an overall negative opinion of gambling. For example, 64% viewed EGMs in a negative light, while almost 75% said that online gambling caused more harm than good.
  • There was significant support for a pre-commitment scheme, with 71% being in favour of such a policy. Another 13% disagreed, while 16% were undecided.
  • While the ACT maintains a self-exclusion program, most adults were not aware of it. Only 33% of those surveyed were aware, while just 48% of EGM players were familiar with it.

Overall Conclusions

  • The survey concludes that members of the ACT are highly involved in gambling. Males under the age of 45 are particularly involved, and they become problem gamblers at a rate triple that of their female counterparts.
  • Despite these issues, only 2% of those with a problem ever seek help.
  • The gambling culture in the Australian Capital Territory is shifting towards the Internet. The 2014 survey revealed that 8% of survey participants has gambled online. In 2019, this had increased to 21%.
  • However, EGMs remain the most dangerous option. Almost a third of those who use them were either at-risk or problem gamblers.
  • While EGMs draw plenty of players, 64% of those surveyed have a negative opinion of them. Nearly half also agree that the maximum wager ($10) on these games should be reduced to $6.92.