Problem gambling is a long-term condition and relapse is common, according to a new study released by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation today, highlighting the need for prevention and early intervention programs.
Australia’s first large scale general population gambling study followed the gambling behaviours and health of more than 3,500 Victorian adults over four years.
Foundation chief executive officer Serge Sardo says the longitudinal study provides valuable insight into problem gambling in Victoria.
“By tracking people’s gambling behaviour over time, the researchers have identified risk and protective factors for developing problems with gambling,” he said.
The fifth report of the Victorian Gambling Study (2008-2012) builds on findings from the initial survey of 15,000 Victorian adults that established the widely used prevalence rate of problem gambling in the state at 0.7 per cent, or about 31,000 Victorians.
Four years on, 71 per cent of participants with gambling problems remained in the same category, with 22 per cent reducing their risk to moderate.
“The study reaffirms the relationship between an increased risk of developing gambling problems with other conditions such as mental health issues, alcohol dependence, a history of problem gambling, and language or cultural barriers,” he said.
Mr Sardo says the study also shows a strong correlation between problem gambling and playing the pokies, table games, race betting and sports betting.
“The evidence shows a clear link between the frequency of playing the pokies with an increased risk of developing gambling problems.
“This suggests that people at moderate risk of developing gambling problems may benefit from our prevention and intervention programs, and reinforces our ‘no wrong door’ approach to providing support and treatment services,” he said.
Findings from this study will inform the Foundation’s treatment services, community education and prevention programs, as well as future research.
Last week, the Foundation launched a new Gambler’s Help service system and new in-language and culturally appropriate services to support all Victorians affected by gambling.
The Foundation has also embarked on a number of local community prevention projects across the state that target vulnerable communities and groups where risks of developing gambling problems are high.
One of only a few general population gambling studies in the world, the Victorian Gambling Study was initially managed by the Victorian Department of Justice, and transferred to the Foundation when it was established in July 2012.