This research sought to explore whether children’s visual and auditory exposure to Electronic Gambling Machines (EGMs) in community clubs contributed to shaping their attitudes towards these types of potentially harmful gambling products. This research also examined children’s knowledge of EGM behaviours in adults within their social networks.
Qualitative interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of 45 children in a regional area of New South Wales, Australia. All children had attended a club that contained gambling products in the previous 12 months. Face to face, semi-structured interviews explored a range of themes including recall of and attitudes towards EGMs. Data were analysed using thematic techniques. Four social learning theory concepts—attentional, retention, reinforcement and reproduction—were used to explore the range of processes that influenced children’s attitudes towards EGMs.
In relation to attentional factors, children recalled having seen EGMs in clubs, including where they were located, auditory stimuli and the physical appearance of EGMs. Children also retained information about the behaviours associated with gambling on EGMs, most prominently why adults gamble on these machines. Attitudes towards EGMs were reinforced by the child’s knowledge of adults EGM behaviours. Some older children’s attitudes were positively reinforced by the perception that profits from the machines would go back to their local sporting teams. Finally, while some children expressed a desire to reproduce EGM behaviours when they were older, others were concerned about the negative consequences of engaging in this type of gambling.
Despite policies that try to prevent children’s exposure to EGMs in community venues, children have peripheral exposure to EGMs within these environments. This exposure and children’s awareness of gambling behaviours of adults appear to play a role in shaping their attitudes towards EGMs. While further research should explore the range of other ancillary factors that contribute to children’s knowledge about these machines, policy makers should consider more effective strategies to prevent children from being exposed to EGMs in community venues.