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Q&A with Foundation CEO, Shane Lucas

The Foundation’s CEO, Shane Lucas, agreed to a Q&A session on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs report of its inquiry into online gambling and its impacts on those experiencing gambling harm.

EACH community booth

Above: Foundation partner, EACH, engaging with their local community in Box Hill to raise awareness of gambling harm.

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  • Q: Stigma is a key issue in the report. Is the Committee on the right track?

    Yes, the stigma associated with gambling harm perpetuates unhelpful stereotypes, so we put quite a bit of effort into reducing stigma and encouraging help seeking. One of the main ways we do this is by sharing the expertise of professionals and the personal stories of harm and recovery of people who’ve been through it. These stories are powerful because they offer a sense of hope and optimism to those who are struggling.

    The overarching theme of our annual Gambling Harm Awareness Week is Talk.Share.Support. which is also about encouraging people to talk about the harms associated with gambling and the effects they can have on communities, families, friends, workplaces and individuals. Stigma features a lot in these conversations, so they play an important role in helping to lift the veil of secrecy that makes people feel alone and giving them the courage to seek support.

    For those who may not be comfortable or ready to participate in traditional interventions like counselling, we offer other types of help. The 100 Day Challenge program offers 100 alternative activities to gambling over 100 days and, using cognitive behaviour therapy techniques, Reset helps people to understand why they gamble and supports them to stop.

  • Q: How does the Foundation’s work align with Recommendation 2, which is to develop a national strategy on online gambling harm reduction based on public health principles?

    The alignment is very strong. This is evident when you consider that the Foundation’s purpose is to prevent and reduce gambling harm for all Victorians, and that our strategic priorities for 2021–2024 are to:

    1. foster community understanding of gambling harm
    2. inform and deliver prevention and intervention activities
    3. strengthen the funded services system.

    In short, we fund research and other activities that increase our understanding of gambling harm, collaborate with others to offer gambling harm prevention programs and support services, and create marketing campaigns designed to change gambling-related attitudes and behaviours. And, in doing this work, we focus on gambling products associated with the greatest risk of harm and communities most affected by those gambling products.

    I would also mention that, following a comprehensive, independent review, we are working towards enhancing our own strategy through the development of an innovative programming framework and a new service delivery model. And we have introduced a framework by which to measure our progress towards delivering on our purpose against seven outcome areas.

  • Q: Throughout the report and in its recommendations, the Committee places importance on the role of rigorous, independent research in informing and evaluating strategies and initiatives to address gambling harm. I assume you agree with this emphasis?

    Indeed. Every aspect of the Foundation’s work is underpinned by our internationally recognised research program, which has led to a greater understanding of the complex nature of gambling harm, while our approach to harm is being emulated around the world.

    Our February 2023 Discussion paper: Gambling harm and the online gambling environment draws on the findings of Foundation-funded and other academic studies, market research and public discourse, as well as policy and regulatory responses such as the National Consumer Protection Framework to highlight current issues, challenges and opportunities.

    Key issues, many of which are addressed in the Committee’s recommendations, include that:

    • regular participation in sports and race betting significantly increases the risk of harm
    • the way gambling providers promote and offer products influences the risk of harm
    • exposure to gambling ads normalises betting and increases the risk of harm
    • current restrictions on gambling ads have failed to reduce the exposure of children and young people to gambling, especially sports betting, which they think is normal
    • the rapid growth of online wagering and its proliferation across platforms and technologies are critical issues for consideration to strengthen consumer protections
    • stronger restrictions on direct marketing and inducements would reduce the risk of harm
    • data collected by online betting companies could be used to identify and offer support to consumers showing signs of harm
    • interventions to reduce the risks associated with simulated gambling and gambling-like products in video game content warrant consideration
    • affordability testing could be an effective gambling harm prevention tool.
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  • Q: What are your thoughts on the Committee’s recommendation that government should develop and fund an ongoing, online gambling public education campaign with national advertising and marketing?

    It has my full support. Consumer marketing campaigns have been another area of strategic focus for the Foundation. Our approach has evolved and matured over the years in response to the expanding evidence base, although mass media campaigns are not an option in the current economic environment.

    Foundation campaigns, which are informed by rigorous, independent research, focus on four priority areas that our behaviour change model indicates will be most effective at influencing consumer behaviour to prevent or reduce gambling harm. The priorities are to:

    1. disrupt gambling normalisation by making young people aware of the risks and challenging industry spin
    2. highlight harmful products and practices to build awareness of harmful tactics and product features so that consumers are better informed and more resilient
    3. offer strategies and advice to those who gamble to mitigate the risk they will experience harm
    4. make it easy to access help by reducing barriers to support and providing a range of options such as tailored services, apps and tools.

    Our ‘always on’ digital marketing strategy serves messages about Gambler’s Help and other support options to people who, accordingly to their online behaviours, search terms and gambling preferences, may be experiencing gambling harm.

  • Q: The Committee recommends developing public education materials for children, parents, schools and community organisations like sporting clubs to raise awareness about gambling risks and harms. What are your thoughts?

    I totally support this recommendation. Education is a critical component of a public health approach and an area in which the Foundation is very active.

    Our Be Ahead of the Game program engages school communities through resources for teachers, parents and carers of students aged 12 to 17. There are curriculum-based units in a variety of VCAL and VCE subjects, information sessions for parents, professional development activities for teachers, and interactive workshops for students.

    We offer a creative classroom program called The Bridge to help kids in upper primary school understand how excessive online gaming can affect their wellbeing. Modules cover issues like how games can trick people into playing longer and spending more, how gaming can affect the brain and make it difficult to stop, and how features like loot boxes resemble gambling.

    Another program with a youth focus that we support is IPC Health’s Young Leaders of the West gambling harm prevention program, which engages young people on the issue of gambling harm in creative ways. For example, a current initiative involves high school students interviewing counsellors and people who have been affected by gambling harm as part of an interschool podcast challenge.

    And, of course, the Foundation’s Love the Game, not the odds program is Australia’s largest and longest running initiative to combat the normalisation of sports gambling. Partners include more around 800 professional and community clubs and sporting bodies in a range of codes across Victoria that are united against sports betting promotions.

    Love the Game partners refuse gambling sponsorships, participate in activities to inform and equip young people to think critically about the risks associated with gambling, and raise awareness in their communities about gambling harm.

    Through the program, the Foundation has also assisted five Victorian AFL clubs to exit from pokies, and supported Geelong and Western Bulldogs football clubs to ban gambling advertising at their home stadiums.

Quotes by Shane (7)
Shane Lucas quote 4

Media contact:
Fiona Skivington, Manager, Media & Communication
on +61 428 248 931 or

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