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Latest ACT Gambling Survey reveals one in ten Canberrans harmed by gambling in the last twelve months

The Canberra Gambling Reform Alliance (CGRA) has congratulated the ACT’s Gambling and Racing Commission (The Commission) for releasing the results of the latest ACT Gambling Survey but expressed strong concerns that the results expose that no headway has been made in reducing gambling harm to the Canberra community. These results provide yet more evidence that the current regulatory regime is failing to adequately protect Canberrans from gambling harm and need to be strengthened.

Commenting on the findings of the survey that was conducted by the Australian National University, Co-chair of CGRA Rebecca Vassarotti stated “These results reveal that not much has changed in relation to the gambling patterns of Canberrans. There has been some small reduction in the revenues being generated from most forms of gambling and there has been an increase in on-line gambling. Even with the increase in on-line gambling, the pokies continue to cause the most significant harm in the community. These results provide yet more evidence that the current regulatory regime is failing to adequately protect Canberrans from gambling harm and needs reform”.

The survey reveals that one in ten people in the ACT has experienced at least one harm from gambling in the past twelve months, and more than 3,000 Canberrans are struggling with significant issues due to their gambling. “The CGRA is deeply concerned about the finding that 1 in 6 Canberrans have experienced a family member or friend experiencing gambling harm over their lifetime. It very troubling that 5% of Canberra residents have a loved one who has experienced harm over the last twelve months,” Ms Vassarotti said.

Prevalence surveys are released every five years and provide an insight into the gambling patterns of Canberrans. This year’s survey has been significantly improved with a larger sample size, the introduction of mobile phones and an expanded range of issues explored through the survey, including issues around gambling harm and community attitudes towards gambling.

“Prevalence surveys have been criticised in the past for taking a very narrow view of harm, through the lens of identifying ‘problem gamblers’ which is the point in which people are usually in crisis. It is very positive to see that this survey has examined a wider range of harms caused by gambling,” said Ms Vassarotti.

“We are not surprised to see that the survey has found that playing poker machines is the single most effective predictor of problem gambling. These results confirm that that how often you play the pokies, and how long you play them for can significant impact on your risk for harm. It noted that people spending more than 1 hour in a typical session on an electronic gaming machine ere more likely to be at risk than not (57.9%), whereas people spending less than 10 minutes in a typical session had significantly lower risk. This demonstrates that there are risks in the design of machines that need to be mitigated through sensible regulatory measures such as pre-commitment, limiting the amount you can bet each spin and limiting access to cash in gambling venues.

CGRA congratulated the Commission for using this opportunity to get a better understanding of community attitudes around gambling in the ACT.  Ms Vassarotti said “We are particularly pleased to see that the Commission has taken the opportunity to explore community views around gambling. Again, we are not surprised with survey results, that found that across the community there is a negative view of gambling, with those suffering gambling harm supporting stronger regulation. The survey reveals that most people believe that online gambling and mobile apps (74%) and poker machines (64%) were the least popular forms of gambling and cause more harm than good to the community. This suggests that in order for venues to maintain their social licence in relation to operating products such as poker machines, they must respond to community expectations”.

“This survey also confirmed results in a community attitudes survey undertaken by the Alliance previously that measures such as pre-commitment, reduction in bet limits and access to cash in venues are supported by many in the community and should be pursued by the Government.

“This report continues to build the case for the continuation of sensible regulatory reform to reduce the risk of harms from gambling, particularly poker machines. This report demonstrates that there is significant harm being caused by gambling, the community will support brave governments who introduce mechanisms to reduce harm and are interested in seeing changes such as the introduction of pre-commitment, reduced access to cash in gambling venues and reduced bet levels per spin – a large number of people agree that there is no need for gambling to cost an individual more than $1000 per hour. We call on the ACT Government to respond to the community’s expectation to protect us from unnecessary gambling harm,” Ms Vassarotti concluded.

CGRA is an Alliance of community organisations and individuals who are actively calling for significant reform of gambling legislation to reduce gambling harm.

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