The first major study of gambling in Victoria in six years has found fewer people are having a punt, but those who do are losing more.
The Study of Gambling and Health in Victoria 2015, released today by the state government and the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, found while nearly one in three Victorians don't gamble at all, those who do are gambling more often and betting on different events and activities than they were in 2008.
In the six years since the last major study on the prevalence of problem gambling:
- the percentage of people who don't gamble has increased from 27 per cent to 30 per cent
- the percentage of people in the problem category has changed from 0.7 per cent to 0.81 per cent which is not statistically significant
- the percentage of people in the low-risk category has increased from 5.7 per cent to 7.34 per cent*
- people with problems are betting more often on the types of gambling most associated with harm including:
- pokies – up from 56 times a year to 87 times a year – 55 per cent increase
- table games – up from 31 times a year to 59 times a year – 90 per cent increase
- race betting – up from 67 times a year to 203 times a year 202 per cent increase
The study also revealed the problem gambling prevalence rate for regular gamblers who gamble once a week or more was 14 per cent.
Foundation chief executive Serge Sardo says while the percentage of people in the problem and moderate-risk categories have not changed significantly, the fact they're gambling more often suggests a deepening of the issue.
"The rise in frequency is an alarming indicator that new technology, among other things, is fuelling an increase in problem gambling behaviour.
"Those in the highest risk categories are gambling more often in land based venues but they're also more likely to be gambling online on sports and other forms of gambling," he said.
People in the problem and moderate-risk category spend more and are more likely to lose track of time and money.
"On average, people who are having gambling problems withdraw more than $300 during a visit and are more likely to lose track of time and money than non-problem gamblers who take out an average $65," he said.
Other key findings include:
- Fewer people are regularly playing the pokies – down from one in five (21%) to one in six (15%) but there has not been a corresponding drop in the prevalence of problem gambling (0.81% or 35,500 Victorians).
- Other forms of gambling have increased with sports betting up (3.96% to 4.82%) and betting on racing increasing significantly (16.4% to 20.63%).
- One in three gamblers said they may or would use a pre-commitment system to set money or time limits.
Mr Sardo says the findings validate changes to the state's problem gambling counselling services.
"Under the Foundation's stewardship, we have introduced a new client-centred model, boosted services for Aboriginal and culturally diverse communities as well as quadrupling funding for prevention program from $600 thousand to more than $2 million," he said.
*NB: for comparison purposes, mobile respondents were excluded as they were not included in the 2008 survey. When mobile respondents are included, the prevalence of low risk increases to 8.91 per cent.