Gambling can cause considerable harm to individuals, families and communities.
It is essential that gambling and gambling-related harm are well understood, and that the regulation of gambling – at individual, community, industry and government levels – is well informed.
Psychology, as a science and profession, can contribute much to understanding gambling, and gambling-related harm, through theory, research and practice.
- Gambling is a significant public health concern associated not only with financial losses but also also with health, employment, depression and self-harm 1, 2, 3
- Of the 4 per cent of Australians who gamble regularly, about 15 per cent can be classified as problem gamblers and a further 15 per cent as at ‘moderate risk’ 3
- Psychological treatment success rates are high 4, but only about 15 per cent of people with a gambling problem seeks treatment 3
- For every one person with a gambling problem, it is estimated that five to ten other people are affected by it 5
- Evidence shows electronic gaming machines (EGMs) are the product most linked to problem gambling and gambling harm. Sixty per cent of the $19 billion per year spent on gambling is lost to EGMs, mostly located in clubs and hotels, with 30 per cent of users engaged in problem gambling 6
- From a psychological perspective, the environmental conditions in venues and the design of the games themselves make it difficult for people to make informed choices about how much they spend and how long they play 7
- Opportunities for gambling have expanded in recent years and embraced sophisticated new technologies (e.g. gambling applications on smart phones). The scientific understanding of gambling has grown, and gambling-related harm has become acknowledged as a public health and mental health issue
- Evidence shows strong consumer protection measures are needed to help people manage their gambling. Governments have a social responsibility that needs to be actively exercised to protect the public from gambling products that cause harm
How the APS is involved
The APS recognises that there are many causes and consequences of gambling-related harm. Effective interventions for gambling-related harm need to both reduce the potential for harm to the individual gambler and his or her family, and address broader social, community, political and economic factors.
The APS has developed a number of resources, including a Position Statement (2012) and Review Paper (2010), based on major developments in understanding gambling from a psychological perspective, along with a special issue of InPsych (October 2010) on the psychology of gambling.
The APS recommends stronger electronic gaming machine (EGMs) consumer protection measures: reducing the number of EGMs and caps per community or location; providing information to consumers about products, such as costs per hour; limiting access to cash and reducing operating hours of machines; and the introduction of an effective policy of mandatory pre-commitment. The APS also recommends measures to minimise the normalisation of gambling, particular that linked with sport and online betting.
The APS has been invited to provide evidence at several public hearings and has contributed a series of submissions to gambling-related government inquiries.
- Battersby, M., & Tolchard, B. (1996). The effect of treatment of pathological gamblers referred to a behavioural psychotherapy unit: II - Outcome of three kinds of behavioural intervention. In B. Tolchard (Ed.). Towards 2000: The future of gambling: Proceedings of the 7th annual conference of the National Association for Gambling Studies (pp. 219-227), Adelaide, South Australia
- MacCallum, F., Blaszczynski, A., Joukhador, J., & Beattie, L. (1999). Suicidality and pathological gambling: A systematic assessment of severity and lethality. In J. MacCallum, F., & Blaszczynski, A. (2002). Pathological gambling and comorbid substance use. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 36, 411-415
- Productivity Commission (2010). Gambling. Productivity Commission Inquiry Report. Volume 1. Report no. 50. Canberra: Productivity Commission
- López Viets, V.C., & Miller, W.R. (1997). Treatment approaches for pathological gamblers. Clinical Psychology Review, 17, 689-702
- Productivity Commission (1999). Australia’s Gambling Industries, Report No. 10, AusInfo, Canberra: Productivity Commission
- Livingstone, C., & Woolley, R. (2007). Risky business: A few provocations on the regulation of electronic gaming machines. International Gambling Studies, 7, 361- 376
- Dickerson, M. (2003). Exploring the limits of ‘Responsible Gambling’: Harm minimisation or consumer protection? Proceedings of the 12th Annual Conference of the National Association for Gambling Studies, Melbourne