Community impacts of electronic gaming machine gambling (Part A)

Abstract

The "community of interest" in this study is both the Victorian and Western Australian population, as well as specific regions in both these States. At the State level, data for total gambling expenditure, household disposable income devoted to gambling, per capita expenditure on gambling, average employment in hotels, cafes and restaurants and indicators of EGM problem gambling are provided to consider patterns of gambling, the broader gambling environment and impacts on other sectors (e.g., wagering, lotteries). Historical changes or trends over time such as the decline of wagering on racing, and the availability of Casino gambling are also examined. The results of this study amplify differences in the respective gambling environment. The environments are not immutable as they are the creation of public policy decisions in all States, with Western Australia the only State to prohibit EGM gaming in local, community or suburban locations. The prevalence rate of problem gambling in Victoria is three times that of Western Australia; more clients in Victoria attend financial counselling with gambling problems, and the pattern of referrals confirms that it is EGM play that is the source of the problem (Victoria 86 per cent; Western Australia 18 per cent). Problems arising from EGM play have drawn in significant numbers of females into counselling, especially in Victoria, whereas males represent two-thirds of clients in Western Australia citing wagering/TAB as the source of problem gambling. The role of public lotteries is perceived differently in the two States. Participation in lotteries is higher in Western Australian than Victoria but it is only weakly associated with problem gambling. It is likely that clubs with EGMs have experienced more sustained membership growth than those without EGMs and "gaming membership" is effectively a new class of membership. It is not the role of the researchers to provide recommendations to the Victorian or Western Australian Governments, as the primary aim of this project was to report the impacts of different gambling environments at the State and regional level. Existing public policy in both States has created the different environments documented in this report and changes to the respective environments will occur as a result of dialogue between the respective communities, the industries and governments. Notwithstanding, one area of the current gambling environment that needs to be empirically researched, is whether it is in fact the number of machines per venue that are causing the harm or the convenience of where they are available. Our initial view is, that it is the latter. From a public policy perspective it is likely that a more limited number of destination centres would contribute significantly to harm minimisation, the effectiveness of monitoring and regulation, industry self-regulation, improved monitoring of programs such as self-exclusion and the capacity to provide consumer protections.

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