ACT News

Study to map the impacts of gambling in the ACT as reforms pass Legislative Assembly

Researchers at the Australian National University will assess the social impacts of gambling in the ACT, as the government continues to implement gaming reforms.

The launch of the survey, which will be led by Dr Tanya Davidson from the ANU Centre for Gambling Research, was announced on Tuesday as the first phase of the ACT government's gaming reforms passed the Legislative Assembly.

Dr Davidson said the survey would focus on how gambling affected not just those involved but also partners and family members, who might endure mental health or financial difficulties.

"Issues like depression, stress and financial difficulties are quite common among people with gambling problems, but they are also a part of the lives of family members of people experiencing gambling problems," she said.

"We will be asking people in the community whether or not they have close family with gambling-related problems, and our research will help us understand what families in the community are experiencing.

"We know problem gambling has devastating effects that go beyond the person themselves."

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The Centre for Gambling Research conducted a similar initiative in 2009, which revealed more than 5000 Canberrans suffered from moderate to severe gambling problems.

"One of the things we've changed in this survey is to expand on the issues we look at, particularly what family members are experiencing, whether that be stress, anxiety or depression," Dr Davidson said.

"We're also taking a wider look at some of the issues gamblers endure themselves and hoping to find out whether they have had any sort of issues in their lifetime, from financial challenges to relationship issues.

"It will be interesting to see how attitudes and behaviour towards gambling have changed over the last five years."

Industry data showed people with gambling problems usually engaged with at least four types of gambling on average, which could make treatment difficult, she said.

"In 2009 we found the majority of people in Canberra – about 70 per cent of adults – had gambled in the past year and 20 per cent gambled once a week."

About one in five Canberrans had sought help for their gambling symptoms in their life,with most seeking help only when they symptoms became severe, she said.

The average adult gambler in Canberra spent $520 a year on gambling, with 73 per cent of all gambling money spent on pokies, she said.

"It's really important that we get as accurate a picture of gambling as possible, so we really want to speak with the community. 

"It's going to be a random telephone survey, so we really don't want people to just hang up as if they don't talk to us. Then we can't get a clear picture of what's going on."

The survey, which it is hoped will involve 8000 Canberrans, will be funded by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission but  Dr Davidson stressed it would be conducted independently.

On Tuesday, the government passed legislation reducing red tape for community clubs with pokie machines across the ACT but stressed the changes would not reduce protection for vulnerable gamblers.

Gaming Minister Joy Burch said she intended to replace the aspirational poker machine cap of 4000 with a ratio of 15 machines per 1000 adults in the ACT.

Under the proposed ratio, the number of machines could surpass the current total of 4954 as soon as 2020. Clubs will be required to forfeit one machine for every four traded.

Australian Bureau of Statistics projections suggest the ACT's adult population could reach about 332,000 in six years, meaning on conservative estimates the new ratio would allow 4982 machines in 2020. 

ACT has the highest number of machines per capita of any Australian jurisdiction, but retains the lowest average revenue per gaming machine.