Gambling products and harm
Electronic gaming machines (pokies) account for 38 per cent of gambling harm in Victoria.
Pokies are available in hotels and registered clubs, which are located in disproportionately higher numbers in disadvantaged Victorian suburbs. They are also available at the Melbourne casino.
Pokies venues are legally allowed to operate 20 hours a day, seven days a week. Venues vary their opening hours, which means customers can access pokies 24/7.
Pokies are programmed to deliver results that are designed to keep people gambling. For example:
- near misses make people think they are close to a win even though there is no basis for this and results do not reflect factors like length of time since a machine last paid out1
- losses disguised as wins are characterised by flashing lights and celebratory or ‘winning’ sounds that accompany a win,2 even when the amount of money won is less than the bet,3 ‘tricking’ the brain to release the feel good hormone dopamine despite an overall loss
- the speed of play limits a person’s opportunity to assess outcomes/losses before deciding whether to continue gambling.4
Learn more about the ways pokies are designed to keep people gambling in this explainer from The Age.
Sport and race betting
Collectively, sport and race betting account for 10 per cent of gambling harm in Victoria.
Sports betting is the fastest-growing form of gambling in Victoria and is popular among young people, especially men aged 18–24.
Race betting is the most popular type of gambling in Victoria apart from lotteries, raffles and sweeps, which are less harmful products.
Sport and race betting harms are commonly linked to:
- inducements offered by bookmakers, such as bonus bets and cashbacks, which encourage increased spending and riskier betting
- the complexity of offers that combine likely outcomes, such as the favourite to win, with more uncommon ones, such as a large score line or a particular player scoring first, which cause confusion and lead to greater losses
- fast, easy access to online betting on a large number of sports and events worldwide 24/7
- the normalisation of betting as a social activity through promotions that, for example, highlight the ‘betting with mates’ feature of apps or imply that participation in events like the Melbourne Cup is central to Australian culture.5
Casino table games
Casino table games such as blackjack, roulette and poker account for 15 per cent of gambling harm in Victoria.
Casinos are designed to be glamorous and exciting, with lots of noise, lights and other distractions that imply people are constantly enjoying big wins and ‘you’ might be next.
Factors that contribute to people experiencing harm from casino table games include:
- the complexity of many casino games, which require a high mental acuity to follow, combined with limited time to make decisions6
- the speed of play in automated versions of games that reduces the time available for thinking and reflecting on decisions and spending7
- near misses in games like blackjack8 and roulette,9 which trigger the brain’s reward system and make people think they are close to winning when they are not.
Bingo accounts for four per cent of gambling harm in Victoria.
Traditionally a social game, recent changes to how it works and ways people can gamble on it have increased the risk of harm from bingo. These include:
- digitisation of bingo through electronic tablets and online options, which mean people can play many more games than was possible with pen and paper
- jackpots – unlimited in size, linked and rolling – encourage centralised larger games and higher spending with fewer winners
- the location of free bingo in close proximity to pokies, and breaks between bingo games, increase the likelihood of participation in other, more harmful forms of gambling.10
1 Schottler Consulting_ (2019). Literature review of the impact of EGM characteristics on gambling harm, New South Wales Responsible Gambling Fund, Sydney. https://www.gambleaware.nsw.gov.au/-/media/files/literature-review-of-gaming-machine-characteristics-edited-20-1-2020.ashx
2 Barton, K., Yazdani, Y., Ayer, N., Kalvapalle, S., Brown, S., Stapleton, J., Brown, D. & Harrigan, K. (2017). The Effect of Losses Disguised as Wins and Near Misses in Electronic Gaming Machines: A Systematic Review. Journal of Gambling Studies, 33 (4), 1241-1260. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s10899-017-9688-0.pdf
3 Dixon, M., Stange, M., Larche, C. J., Graydon, C., Fugelsang, J. A., & Harrigan, K. A. (2018). Dark flow, depression and multiline slot machine play. Journal of Gambling Studies, 34 (1), 73–84. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846824/pdf/10899_2017_Article_9695.pdf
4 Parke, J. Parke, A. & Blaszczynski, A. (2017). Key issues in product-based harm minimisation: Examining theory, evidence and policy issues relevant in Great Britain. Responsible Gambling Trust. http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/26363/1/pbhm-final-report-december-2016.pdf
5 Hing, N., Russell, A., Rockloff, M., Browne, M., Langham, E., Li, E., Lole, L., Greer, N., Thomas, A., Jenkinson, R., Rawat, V., & Thorne, H. (2018). Effects of wagering marketing on vulnerable adults. Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Melbourne. https://responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au/documents/408/Effects-of-wagering-marketing-on-vulnerable-adults.pdf
6, 7 Armstrong T., Rockloff, M., Greer, N., & Donaldson, P. (2017). Rise of the machines: a critical review on the behavioural effects of automating traditional gambling games. Journal of Gambling Studies, 33, 735-767. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Matthew-Rockloff/publication/310359887_Rise_of_the_Machines_A_Critical_Review_on_the_Behavioural_Effects_of_Automating_Traditional_Gambling_Games/links/594344fd45851525f88d767b/Rise-of-the-Machines-A-Critical-Review-on-the-Behavioural-Effects-of-Automating-Traditional-Gambling-Games
8 Dixon, M., Nastally, B., Hahs, A., Homer-King, M., & Jackson, J. (2009). Blackjack players demonstrate the near miss effect. Analysis of Gambling Behavior, 3, 56–61. https://repository.stcloudstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1092&context=agb
9 Sundali, J., Safford, A., & Croson, R. (2012). The impact of near-miss events on betting behavior: an examination of casino rapid roulette play. Judgment and Decision Making, 7(6), 768-778. https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~baron/journal/12/12217a/jdm12217a.pdf
10 Maltzahn, K., Whiteside, M., Thompson, A., Kirirua, J., Cox, J., Lee, H., & MacLean, S, (2021). Lucky for some: bingo in Victoria, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Melbourne. https://responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au/documents/975/VRGF_RR_LFS-BingoVIC_publish.pdf