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Round 11

The following projects investigate the impact of COVID-19 on gambling in Victoria.

Catalyst or circuit-breaker? A prospective cohort study to assess COVID-19’s effects on relationships between gambling availability, gambling behaviour, harm and social, psychological and financial wellbeing

Professor Nerilee Hing



This project will measure the impact of the changed availability of gambling on gambling behaviour and harm, the psychosocial, financial and demographic characteristics associated with different transitions, and identify the determinants of harm and wellbeing. The project aims to understand if COVID-19 and the change to the gambling environment act as a catalyst to further harm or act as a circuit breaker to facilitate natural recovery. An online, prospective longitudinal cohort study will be completed with almost 1,500 Australian gamblers across three waves. Data will capture before, during, shortly after, and approximately 12 months after the initial lockdown. An Australia-wide sample will enable comparisons between jurisdictions, although the sample is heavily skewed towards Victorian participants. The outcomes of this study will have impact across the Foundation and among key stakeholders.

Economic insecurity and gambling behaviours in Victoria in the COVID-19 society

Professor Lisa Farrell

RMIT University


This project aims to understand the complex relationships between economic insecurity and gambling behaviours within the context of the Victorian gambling landscape and the COVID-19 economic impacts. It will explore how both economic insecurity in the global economy (the macroeconomic environment), and personal economic insecurity can impact on individual health and wellbeing and can act as a trigger for gambling behaviours and associated harm. The project will collect longitudinal data from a representative sample of over 500 Victorian gamblers over a one-year period. Participants will complete a total of 6 surveys, one every two months. The survey will track gambling behaviour and attitudes, as well as economic and wellbeing data over time. The outcomes of this project will be applicable to the financial counselling sector and would provide an evidence base for policy makers and regulators.

How Victorian venue gamblers kept busy during COVID-19 venue closures: Can substituted leisure activities reduce gambling urges and the risk of gambling harm?

Sarah Hare

Schottler Consulting


This project will examine the substitution of leisure activities by gamblers while gaming venues were closed during COVID-19. The aim of this project is to understand if substituted leisure activities undertaken by venue-based gamblers during lockdown can reduce gambling urges and the risk of harm. The study will examine both adaptive (i.e. hobbies, exercise, relationships with others) and potentially maladaptive activities (i.e. shift to online gambling, increased alcohol consumption). The project will also examine the contribution of economic insecurity on gambling behaviour. This mixed methods project will consist of three stages - a literature review, 30 qualitative interviews with venue-based gamblers and an online survey of between 450 and 600 venue-based gamblers. With its focus on alternative leisure activities, this project will provide evidence to support the Foundation’s work in the prevention, treatment and marketing areas.

Preventing a new epidemic during a pandemic: The influence of COVID-19 related stressors on gambling behaviour in the moment and in the real world

Associate Professor Nicki Dowling

Deakin University


This project will assess the impact of COVID-19 stressors such as mental health concerns, consumption of alcohol and other drugs, social isolation, financial stress, relationship conflict and the experience of family violence on gambling behaviour. The project aims to identify risk and protective factors that increase/decrease the risk of gambling in response to these stressors and to examine the medium-term effects of these stressors on gambling behaviour and harmful gambling among a cohort of regular gamblers. A sample of 100 regular Victorian gamblers will participate in a 4-week ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study, where regular surveys completed by smartphone will measure “in-the-moment” gambling behaviour, COVID-19 related stressors, and COVID-19 related protective factors. Gamblers will also complete a 3-month follow up survey. This project will provide evidence towards the Foundation’s work in the prevention and treatment areas. This project also has the potential for widespread impact, with the findings of this study applicable for other service delivery sectors (for example, mental health, alcohol and other drugs, family violence, financial institutions, general practice etc.).

Online gambling in a world changed by COVID-19; trajectories for people in the Sunraysia Aboriginal community

Associate Professor Sarah MacLean

La Trobe University


This proposal investigates the pathways in and out of online gambling during and after COVID-19 lockdowns in a community known to be at risk of harm; Aboriginal Victorians in the Sunraysia region. The project aims to identify the social and cultural contexts in which levels of harm from online gambling increase, stabilise or abate after COVID-19. A longitudinal, qualitative design was proposed, with 18 regular online gamblers being interviewed at two time periods, 6 months apart. This study involves a partnership between staff of La Trobe and Monash Universities and Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS). This project will build the evidence in an under-investigated area and provides a good opportunity to build research capacity among a staff member in an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO). This project will also be used as a basis to develop further collaborative projects with ACCHOs. This project will provide evidence towards the Foundation’s work to supporting specific at-risk populations affected by gambling harm.

Focus on families: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the harms and support needs of families and friends of gamblers

Dr Stephanie Merkouris

Early career researcher, mentored by Associate Professor Nicki Dowling

Deakin University


This project aims to explore the impact of COVID-19 on the harms and support needs of families and friends of gamblers. It will examine how COVID-19 and related stressors (e.g., stress and trauma, social isolation, job loss and economic insecurity) has impacted gambling behaviour and harm experienced by gamblers, the harms experienced by affected others due to changes in the gambler during this time, and how affected others have attempted to support the gambler and themselves during this period. In this qualitative study, 60 affected others will be recruited to undertake semi-structured interviews (12-15 people per gambling type – online gambling, sports betting, EGMs gambling, and casino table games). This work will also provide evidence about gamblers behaviour during COVID-19. This project will provide evidence towards the Foundation’s work to supporting specific at-risk populations affected by gambling harm.

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