Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation CEO Shane Lucas today asserted that damning portrayals of people who experience negative consequences from gambling are neither accurate nor fair because the products that cause the most harm are designed to keep people gambling.
‘Far too often, society judges, blames and stigmatises people who experience gambling harm,’ Mr Lucas said.
‘But there needs to be more recognition of the harmful nature of many gambling products, especially pokies, sports betting, and casino table games.’
Mr Lucas’ comments coincide with Gambling Harm Awareness Week (17–23 October), during which Victorians are being asked to consider if gambling could be affecting their wellbeing.
‘A common misconception is that all gambling issues are so severe that they lead to outcomes like bankruptcy, family breakdown or suicidal ideation. In reality, there is a spectrum of harm and research shows that the majority of those affected sit in the middle or at the lower end of it.
‘Less severe effects, which can build up over time, include feelings of stress, irritability or regret, lack of concentration and difficulty sleeping. But some people only make the connection between gambling and their feelings or behaviour when prompted, so it’s important to ask the question.’
Mr Lucas highlighted examples of product-specific design features that research has found keep people gambling and contribute significantly to their experience of negative consequences:
- pokies use near misses to mislead people to think they are close to a win, while losses disguised as wins ‘celebrate’ wins with flashing lights and sounds, even though the amount of money won is less than the bet
- sports betting inducements like bonus bets encourage increased spending on, and frequency of betting, while the complexity of multi-bets makes the actual odds on each bet difficult to calculate
- casino table games like blackjack, roulette and poker also use near misses, while their complexity combined with the speed of play in automated games reduces the time available for thinking and reflecting on decisions and spending.
‘The evidence indicates that contributing further to the risk of pokies, which account for 38 per cent of gambling harm in Victoria, are their location in disproportionately higher numbers in disadvantaged suburbs,’ Mr Lucas said.
Research also shows that, combined, sport and race betting account for 10 per cent of gambling harm in Victoria, and sports betting is the fastest-growing form of gambling in the state.
‘The normalisation of sports gambling through excessive advertising is problematic,’ Mr Lucas said. ‘The ads present betting as synonymous with winning and imply it’s a social activity – “bet with mates” – that’s central to Australian culture. The ads don’t inform people of the risks associated with gambling.’