Victorian population gambling and health study 2018–2019
About the study
This report details results from a large general population survey on gambling participation, gambling problems and gambling-related harm in the state of Victoria, Australia conducted between September 2018 and January 2019.
The study is the third of its kind in Victoria. Previous studies were conducted in 2014 and 2008. The latest study differs from earlier surveys in that it includes new elements that better align the investigation with a public health approach through the consideration of gambling harm in the broader community.
The study involved a mobile phone and landline survey of 10,638 randomly selected Victorians adults.
The study found a modest decline in gambling participation, with the number of Victorian adults who gamble declining from 73.1 per cent in 2008 to 70.1 per cent in 2014 and 69 per cent in 2018–2019. Participation is highest among people aged 65–74 years (78 per cent), and lowest among people 18–24 (52.4 per cent).
The key findings include:
- 69 per cent of Victoria’s adult population gamble, of whom:
- 28.7 per cent participate in race betting
- 20.4 per cent play the pokies, with those in the problem (69.3 per cent), moderate-risk (52.3 per cent) and low-risk (40 per cent) gambling categories more likely to play the pokies than non-problem gamblers (16.3 per cent)
- 8.8 per cent bet on casino table games such as blackjack, roulette and poker
- 8.3 per cent bet on sports, with men (13.9 per cent) significantly more likely than women (2.9 per cent) to do so. This has increased from 10.9 per cent of men and 2.5 per cent of women in 2014, and 9.3 per cent of men and 2.1 per cent of women in 2008
- 21.9 per cent of Victorians aged 18–24 years who gamble participate in sports betting. At 31.9 per cent, Victorian men of this age who gamble are most likely to participate in sports betting, while 10.3 per cent of Victorian women of the same age do so
- online gambling is growing in popularity, with 19.2 per cent of Victorian adults who gamble betting online
- 71.7 per cent of people who participate in sports betting place bets via online bookmakers or mobile apps. This is a dramatic increase from 22.4 per cent in 2008 and 52 per cent in 2014
- the prevalence of problem gambling has remained largely unchanged, from 0.8 per cent in 2014 to 0.7 per cent in 2018–2019
- 39 per cent of people who experience problem gambling are in a state of high distress, compared to 5 per cent of Victoria’s general population (Kessler Psychological Distress Scale)
- about 330,000 adults in Victoria who gamble (9.6 per cent) experience at least one form of gambling-related harm
- pokies alone account for 37.7 per cent of gambling harm in Victoria
- 70 per cent of gambling harm is experienced by people whose behaviour is not classified as problem gambling
- 6.1 per cent of Victorian adults – about 300,000 people – are harmed by someone else’s gambling
- using the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, self-reported satisfaction with life drops as risky gambling behaviour increases
- risky gambling behaviour, excessive alcohol consumption and heavy smoking are linked.
Implications for the Foundation
The data collected in this study will be used to inform and refine policy, prevention and treatment efforts in Victoria, for example, in relation to where programs and services are located. The study also provides valuable information for governments and agencies to monitor, enhance and track the success of initiatives designed to tackle gambling-related harm.
While gambling participation levels have remained steady, the negative side effects or consequences – gambling harm – have become more apparent. Gambling harm is associated with poorer health and wellbeing of the individual who gambles, family, community and population.
The findings of this study are important because they provide evidence that efforts to prevent, reduce and treat gambling harm should focus on community interventions, rather than on individuals who struggle with gambling issues.
Fact sheet 1: What a population study can tell us
Fact sheet 3: Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI)
Fact sheet 4: Gambling harm (updated October 2022)
Fact sheet 7: Health and wellbeing
Fact sheet 8: Gambling frequency and harm
Rockloff, M, Browne, M, Hing, N, Thorne, H, Russell, A, Greer, N, Tran, K, Brook, K & Sproston, K 2020, Victorian population gambling and health study 2018–2019, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Melbourne.