Gambling is a prevalent activity throughout Australia, including its capital city of Canberra, located at the northern tip of ACT. Thanks to the results of a recent study into the region’s gambling activities, it’s now known that pokies players and gamblers in general are on the decline, while the rate of problem gambling is holding steady.
The research was conducted at the Australian National University, which surveyed 7,000 adult residents of Canberra to find out about their recent gambling behavior. The results were compared to a similar study conducted in 2009.
The university’s research indicated that 15% less residents of Canberra played the pokies or wagered their money on other gambling activities in 2014 compared to five years ago.
In the original 2009 survey, 30% of Canberra’s adult respondents said they had not gambled in the last year. The new study indicated 45% of those surveyed did not gamble in the 12 months leading up to the survey.
Consequently, there was a 19% drop in gambling expenditures across the capital city from 2009 to 2014.
Another significant factor revealed by the study was the fact that problem gambling still exists at the exact same rate as it did five years ago. In 2009, 0.5% of Canberra’s residents admitted to having a gambling problem of some magnitude.
The same percentage of adults said they have a gambling addiction this year, but also worth noting, the 0.5% in Canberra is lower than the reported 0.8% in New South Wales, and the 1% in Victoria.
Dr. Tanya Davidson, an expert in epidemiology, mental health and public health and human services, and an author of the ANU study on gambling, gave her opinion of the results.
“What seems to be happening is that people who are low risk or who don’t report many problems or they’re just recreationally gambling are either quitting or cutting back,” said Dr. Davidson. “But what’s happening amongst people who are gambling per se, the prevalence rates are pretty much similar.”
While the decline in pokies players is a positive, Dr. Davidson believes the solution to the steady rate of problem gambling lies within the proffered suggestion of support for those who have an addiction.
8% of adults in ACT are spending an average of $1,000 each year on gambling activities, while 1% is spending as high as $5,000 or more per annum. Dr. Davidson says these are the types of players who need support the most, and that the staff of local clubs and casinos should be more responsible for ensuring these players have the necessary support services available to them.
Dr. Davidson is of the opinion that Australians would be less likely to preserve a harmful gambling habit if they were made aware of exclusion systems and other resources that revolve round safe gambling habits.
“We need to be targeting messages to people who are gambling and who are gambling at higher levels because they’re still experiencing significant levels of problems and they’re having a great deal of impact on the family members as well,” she said.