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Targeting interventions for problem gambling in the ACT

Most individuals with gambling problems do not get specialist formal help, such as problem gambling treatment or initiating self-exclusion (Carroll et al., 2011 PDF 1.33 MB; Fogarty & Taylor-Rodgers, 2016 PDF 1.7 MB).  Aside of the role of serious consequences (such as marital separation) and of desperation (suicidal thoughts are linked to seeking formal help) we know little about the factors that encourage or discourage help seeking. About 1,300 individuals in the ACT at any time point will have serious problems with their gambling and a larger group of moderate risk gamblers (between 3,000 and 4,000) will be less seriously affected at the individual level but will contribute more to the overall burden at the community level simply because of their greater numbers. It is therefore important to determine practical and acceptable ways of approaching gamblers, so that people experiencing problems might best be directed to help.

This project will involve in-depth interviews with people who reported past or present gambling in the 2014 Survey on Gambling, Health and Wellbeing in the ACT. The interviews will ask people to reflect about their experiences with gambling, their health and wellbeing and their use and thoughts about a range of services. The main aim of the project is to develop a set of strategies by which people might best be directed to assistance and appropriate sources of information given the full range of gambling contexts.

This project is funded by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission.

For further information contact the Primary Investigator Dr Tanya Davidson.

Information for participants (PDF 60KB).

Information for participants 2 (PDF 32KB).


The Client Longitudinal Study

This project addresses a number of gaps in our existing knowledge base relating to people with gambling problems who seek help and family members of people with gambling problems who themselves seek help, including the following:

• The pathways by which people with gambling problems reach treatment services.
• The factors associated with and the perceived reasons for engaging in and persisting with treatment and the factors associated with leaving treatment early rather than completing the program.
• The extent to which gambling-related problems recur in those who have had treatment.
• The level of and the need for future service contact among those who have previously had treatment, including help for difficulties other than problem gambling.
• The profiles of family members who present at problem gambling services.
• Experience of problem gambling and other services over time (past, present and future) as reported by family members.
• Family members’ additional needs for information and assistance. 

This project involves recruiting and interviewing clients with gambling problems from problem gambling services throughout New South Wales and the ACT. Clients will be followed up through their period of treatment and then for two years after they leave a service. Family members are also recruited from the same services and are similarly followed up through the period of contact with services. The study of family members includes both quantitative and qualitative components and involves at least one follow-up interview after leaving the service.

Overall, the research will provide a high-quality evidence base for informing strategies to encourage help-seeking for problem gambling, to better target services to service needs, to assist in the retention of clients in treatment programs, and to determine where and when systematic follow-up of former clients is warranted.

This project is funded by the ACT Problem Gambling Assistance Fund and the NSW Responsible Gambling Fund.

For further information about the pilot phase of this project, The Client Cohort Longitudinal Study Pilot

For further information see the study webpage, or you can email Dr Tanya Davidson.



Gambling expenditure in the ACT

People with Gambling problems account for half of ACT losses

People with gambling problems account for almost half of gambling losses in the ACT, a new analysis of gambling trends has found. CGR research has found while only 5.7 per cent of the population has some degree of problem gambling, they accounted for 44 per cent of gambling revenue in the ACT in 2014.

The research, led by Dr Tanya Davidson, analysed data from a 2014 survey on gambling, health and wellbeing and compared it with data collected in 2009 to draw up a profile of ACT gamblers and gambling trends. “A disproportionately large amount of gambling revenue in the ACT is derived from people who report problem gambling,” Dr Davidson said.

People with some degree of gambling problems account for just under half of all gambling losses. More than one dollar in every five, or $60 million, came from the 1.5 per cent of ACT adults with the most serious degree of problem gambling. Gambling expenditure fell substantially from $288 million to $230 million between the 2009 and the 2014 studies. However, the proportion of money lost by people with gambling problems has remained constant over the five years.

The analysis found that about two thirds of losses from betting on sports or special events, poker machines and horse and greyhound racing came from people with some degree of gambling problems. In contrast, only 18 per cent of money lost on lotteries came from people with some degree of problem gambling.

“It seems that people with problems account for a large proportion of gambling revenue, regardless of whether they are gambling over the internet or not,” Dr Davidson added.

The report also describes major differences in gambling patterns between men and women, and people with different levels of education. “Men gamble more than women, and men account for more than 80 per cent of losses on races, sports or special events and for the money lost over the internet,” Dr Davidson said. She said people with lower levels of education lost three times more money than people with a degree, and lost an average six times more money on poker machines than people with a degree.

Final Reports »

Davidson T., Rodgers B., Markham F. & Taylor-Rodgers E. (2016). Gambling Expenditure in the ACT (2014): By Level of Problem Gambling, Type of Activity, and Socioeconomic and Demographic Characteristics. ACT Gambling and Racing Commission: Canberra. (PDF 3.08 MB).

Rodgers B., Davidson T., Markham F., Suomi A., Taylor-Rodgers E. & Cowlishaw S. (2015). Gambling Expenditure in the ACT (2009): By Level of Problem Gambling, Type of Activity, and Socioeconomic and Demographic Characteristics. ACT Gambling and Racing Commission: Canberra. (PDF 2.22 MB)


Understanding the self-exclusion process in the ACT

Better info needed for gamblers on self-exclusion

A study into a process used for minimising harm for problem gamblers in the ACT has found little information in the community about self-exclusion or how people can access it. People wanting to stop or limit their gambling can voluntarily enter into an agreement to exclude themselves from a single venue or multiple venues in the ACT under a process known as self-exclusion.

The study by The Australian National University (ANU) interviewed problem gamblers, gambling venues and counsellors and asked them about their experiences of the self-exclusion process. “We found there was very little detailed information available to people about the process of self-exclusion,” said lead researcher Dr Marisa Fogarty from the ANU Centre for Gambling Research. As a result, problem gamblers had a mix of understandings on what the process was about, what their rights were and often only accessed self-exclusion as a last resort when all other methods of harm minimisation had been exhausted. “With greater public awareness of this process, people will be able to access self-exclusion before things get so bad that their lives are changed forever,” she said.

The study found self-exclusion was an empowering process for people experiencing harm from gambling. Problem gamblers felt supported by venues and by counsellors in going through the self-exclusion process. However, a major limitation to the process was gamblers breaching their self-exclusion Deed and entering venues they were excluded from, or accessing gambling venues in Queanbeyan.

People wanting to self-exclude can approach staff at any venue in the ACT, the ACT Gambling Counselling and Support Service or the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission. Further information about self-exclusion in the ACT can be found at

Fogarty M. & Taylor-Rogers E. (2016). Final Report Understanding the Self-Exclusion process in the ACT. ACT Gambling and Racing Commission: Canberra. (PDF 1.7 MB).



The 2014 Survey on Gambling, Health and Wellbeing
in the ACT

In 2014 the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission funded the CGR to complete a survey on Gambling, Health and Wellbeing in the ACT. This followed similar surveys undertaken in 2001 and 2009 and was designed to up-date our understanding of gambling amongst ACT adults. The survey involved randomly telephoning more than 7,000 ACT residents. People were asked about how often they gamble, the types of activities they gamble on and how much money they lose when gambling. The survey included questions about health, wellbeing and attitudes towards gambling from everyone, regardless of whether they gambled or not. The report also explores difficulties people were experiencing in relation to their gambling and the types of help they want. Internet gambling, and the nature and extent of the impacts of gambling on families, were new areas covered by the 2014 Survey.

The main findings from this survey include:
• About 55% of the ACT adult population had gambled in the last 12 months with 8% reporting losing more than $1000 in the last year and 1% losing more than $5000;
• The most common activities were playing lottery (33%) followed by EGMs (20%), betting on horse or greyhound races (18%) and buying scratch tickets (15%);
• Just over 8% of ACT adults bet using the internet with 2% doing so weekly or more often;
• 5.4% of the adult population reported at least some problem gambling symptoms including people who met the criteria for moderate risk and problem gambling (1.1% and 0.4%);
• Only 8% of moderate risk/problem gamblers had ever got help for their gambling problem;
• Emotional issues (such as stress, anxiety and depression) were more commonly reported by people with gambling problems than financial issues;
• A large proportion (16%) of ACT adults report having had at least one close family member with gambling related issues in their lifetime with 5% saying this had been in the last 12 months;
• There was a considerable drop in the gambling participation and expenditure from 2009 to 2014; and
• While this reduction is reassuring people with gambling problems reported considerable harms, and distress and were at risk for physical and mental health problems, financial difficulties as well as problems with relationships.

Davidson, T., Rodgers, B., Taylor-Rodgers, E., Suomi, A. & Lucas, N. (2015). 2014 Survey on Gambling Health and Wellbeing in the ACT. ACT Gambling and Racing Commission: Canberra. (PDF 3.7 MB).


Prevention Interventions for Problem Gambling

A key theme within the Productivity Commission Inquiry Report on Gambling in relation to addressing and preventing problem gambling was to understand and respond to problem gambling via the lens of the public health model (Productivity Commission, 2010).  In the spirit of this recommendation - and calls more broadly over the last decade or so for a public health approach to problem gambling (e.g. Griffiths, 2004, Korn et al., 2003, Korn and Shaffer, 1999, Messerlian et al., 2004) - this research explains, reviews and evaluates different public health prevention intervention frameworks that could be applied to problem gambling prevention and early intervention.

The report concludes that a public health meta-framework is an appropriate and useful approach for gambling and problem gambling and provides a basis for a contemporary health promotion framework. The flexibility of the public health approach is both an asset and a disadvantage. Adopting such a framework for gambling requires decisions on the specific components to be incorporated rather than a reliance on vague, undefined terminology. In some instances, directly contradictory strategies can lay claim to the label of a “public health approach”.  That said, there is a range of identified universal, selective and indicated prevention strategies with varying levels of empirical research support for their effectiveness, either for gambling specifically or for problems in closely related fields (such as substance use). The overriding theme emanating from this report is that specific preventative interventions are less effective when conducted in isolation and are more likely to have an impact when they are incorporated into a more comprehensive and coordinated approach.

Rodgers, B., Suomi, A., Davidson, T., Lucas, N. & Taylor-Rodgers, E. (2015). Preventive Interventions For Problem Gambling: A Public Health Perspective. ACT Gambling and Racing Commission: Canberra. (PDF 1.7 MB).



The Client Cohort Longitudinal Study Pilot

This is the first part of a larger longitudinal project that provides a high-quality evidence base for informing strategies to encourage help-seeking for problem gambling, to assist in the retention of clients in treatment programs, and to determine where and when systematic follow-up of former clients is warranted.

The purpose of the CCLS pilot study was to pilot a methodology for studies of two longitudinal samples. These two samples were (1) individuals who have sought treatment in relation to their own gambling; and (2) individuals who have sought treatment in relation to their family member's gambling. The project interviewed clients recruited from gambling-specific programs to examine their service needs and experiences during and after treatment.



Stigma and Help-Seeking for Gambling Problems

Previous research has demonstrated that stigma is a barrier to seeking help for gambling problems (e.g. Carroll et al., 2011 (PDF 133 MB), Rockloff and Schofield, 2004, Suurvali et al., 2009).   Also, our recent research into Beliefs and Knowledge About Gambling (2012) (PDF 2.75 MB), found that high-intensity players of EGMs believed that stigma prevents people with gambling problems from self-identifying and seeking help.  However, there has been very little research systematically deconstructing stigma and the role it plays in the lives of people with gambling problems and their help-seeking behaviour.  The fundamental aim of our research was therefore to better understand how stigma operates in the lives of people at risk of developing gambling problems, and people who are experiencing gambling problems.

The study used data from in-depth interviews conducted with (i) ACT health and welfare service providers (ACT), (ii) high-intensity players of EGMs (ACT), (iii) ACT adults with gambling problems attending health and welfare services, and (iv) problem gambling and financial counsellors from around Australia.

The findings include that:
• People don’t tend to view problem gambling as an addiction;
• While other addictions often elicit public sympathy people with gambling problems tend to be perceived as “stupid”, “selfish”, and “hurting their families”;
• Gambling is considered a normal accepted activity, but at the same time problem gambling is viewed harshly;
• The contradictory nature of these attitudes contributes to stigma associated with having a gambling problem;
• The “gamble responsibly” message was reported as vague and may contribute to stigma because it puts the onus on individuals to control their behaviour; and
• Adopting a public health approach may go a long way to reduce the stigma attached to problem gambling.

Carroll, A., Rodgers, B., Davidson, T. & Sims, S. (2013). Stigma and help-seeking for gambling problems. ACT Gambling and Racing Commission: Canberra. (PDF 1.42 MB).



Beliefs and Knowledge About Gambling Amongst High-Intensity Players of Gaming Machines

In our previous research into Help-Seeking and Uptake of Services Amongst People With Gambling Problems in the ACT (2011) (PDF 1.32 MB) we found that many people with gambling problems did not seek help or delayed seeking help for their gambling problems because it took them a long time to self-identify as having a gambling problem and because they had little knowledge about the services available to assist them. The main aim of our study was therefore to investigate knowledge and beliefs about gambling participation and problem gambling amongst a group of high-intensity players of EGMs.

For this research we conducted in depth interviews with 25 adults who played EGMs at least once per week.  We found that these EGM players find it difficult to identify early signs and symptoms of problem gambling and are reluctant to intervene when they think someone they know might have a gambling problem.  They typically found it difficult to describe responsible gambling beyond ‘not spending more than you can afford’ or to identify signs and symptoms of problem gambling outside of gaming venues.  They also had very little knowledge about services available for people with gambling problems beyond the telephone number advertised on EGMs.   Furthermore, knowledge about problem gambling tended to increase amongst people who had experienced harm as a result of their gambling.

Carroll, A., Davidson, T., Marsh, D., Sims, S. & Chow, A. (2012). Beliefs and knowledge about gambling amongst high-intensity players of gaming machines. ACT Gambling and Racing Commission: Canberra. (PDF 2.75 MB).



Help-Seeking and Uptake of Services Amongst People with Gambling Problems in the ACT

In our 2009 ACT Survey on Gambling, Health and Wellbeing, we found that only about 1 in 5 people with gambling problems had ever received professional help for their problems (Davidson & Rodgers, 2010).  Further, there was worrying evidence that help is not sought until problems are extreme.  The key objectives of this study were therefore to establish what kind of people get help for gambling problems, what kind of people do not get help, and to investigate pathways and barriers to receiving services.

For this research we interviewed service providers and people who identified as having problems with their gambling who had contact with services in the ACT. Information from the 2009 Survey of Gambling, Health and Wellbeing in the ACT study was also used to shed light on people with gambling problems who do not seek help.

This study found that symptom severity and people self-identifying as having gambling problems were the strongest predictors of service use. The majority (69%) of people with symptoms in the community had not accessed help, nor had they self-identified as having gambling problems. This group were most likely to be younger adults, in paid work and to have never been married.

The report also noted that pathways through the service system were indirect, unclear and differed from client to client. Service providers had limited knowledge of the prior help-seeking of their clients and many clients were vague about their prior service use. Clients tended to be motivated to seek help after a crisis had occurred. Barriers to service use included (i) denial, (ii) stigma and shame, (iii) beliefs that gambling would provide a solution for clients’ difficulties, and (iv) the signs and symptoms of problem gambling are often not overt. Finally, this report found that having been married or in a de facto relationship, and talking to family and friends were strongly associated with whether or not someone with gambling problems identified as having a problem or accessed help.  As such, family and friends play an important role in help-seeking pathways.

Carroll, A., Davidson, T., Marsh, D. & Rodgers, B .(2011). Help-seeking and uptake of services amongst people with gambling problems in the ACT.  ACT Gambling and Racing Commission: Canberra. (PDF 1.33 MB).


Profiling Gambling Symptoms in the Australian Capital Territory: Socioeconomic and Demographic Characteristics and Gambling Participation

Australian and international prevalence surveys consistently report that a wide range of socioeconomic and demographic characteristics are associated with problem gambling.  People with gambling problems also tend to bet on a wide range of products.  However, few studies have attempted to disentangle whether specific types or combinations of socioeconomic factors might pose particular risk for gambling problems.  Similarly, the relative contribution of different types of gambling activities to gambling problems has also rarely been investigated.

The key objectives of this project were therefore to describe the distribution of problem gambling, in terms of (i) its demographic and socioeconomic profile; and (ii) information collected on the intensity of gambling participation for different activities. The research utilised data from the 2009 Survey on Gambling, Health and Wellbeing in the ACT.

The main findings from this research include:
• There was considerable overlap in the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics associated with problem gambling;
• After taking this overlap into account, being younger, male, having a history of divorce or having never married, but particularly lower qualifications, were the most important predictors of problem gambling symptoms;
• The prevalence of problem gambling varied greatly across population subgroups;
• Financial losses were a better indicator of problem gambling than how often people gambled or the number of gambling activities people undertook;
• Measures of intensity for EGM play were better indicators of problem gambling than for measures of intensity of gambling summed across all activities;
• Extremely high levels of risk were found for the highest intensity EGM players;  and
• Preventive measures and strategies can be guided by targeting the subgroups of the population with the highest rates and risk of problem gambling.

Davidson, T., & Rodgers, B. (2011). Profiling Problem Gambling Symptoms in the Australian Capital Territory: Socioeconomic and Demographic Characteristics and Gambling Participation. ACT Gambling and Racing Commission: Canberra. (PDF 1.13 MB).


Public Opinion on Gambling, ANUpoll

The ANUpoll is a regular telephone survey of Australian public opinion on matters of national importance. In 2011 the ANUPoll assessed Public Opinion on Gambling, taking a snapshot of the attitudes of 1,213 randomly selected Australian adults towards gambling and potential government regulation.

Overall the findings indicated that the public sees pokies as part of the problem, and government regulation as part of the solution.  It found considerable support for at least some forms of government regulation – including pre-commitment betting limits – even among people who gamble frequently.

However, the poll also found that the public is concerned that gambling regulation should not go too far. Two thirds of respondents believed people should have the right to gamble whenever they want, while 42 per cent believe the government has no right to restrict a person’s gambling. Only 24 per cent were supportive of a total ban on gambling. 

Other findings from the poll include:
• that people most often associate gambling problems with playing poker machines, followed by gambling on horse and greyhound races and casino table games
• Less than half the respondents thought that gambling activities are advertised responsibly, and only a third thought that gambling regulations are properly enforced.
• While most Australians would know where to turn to get help for gambling problems, 39 per cent said they would not know where to go.

Mond, J., Davidson, T. & McAllister, I. (2011). Public Opinion on Gambling, ANUpoll July 2011. Australian National University: Canberra. (PDF 668 KB).



2009 Survey of The Nature and Extent of Gambling, and Problem Gambling, in the Australian Capital Territory

In 2009, the CGR conducted a prevalence survey on Gambling, Health and Wellbeing  in the ACT. This study broadly replicated methods used in a gambling prevalence survey undertaken in the ACT in 2001. Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews, asking about gambling participation, were conducted with 5,500 randomly contacted ACT residents. More than 2000 people, covering the full spectrum of gambling participation, completed detailed interviews covering problem gambling, service use, health and wellbeing and socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.

The main findings of this survey include:
• that most people had gambled (70%) in the last 12 months;
• 30% of adults had played gaming machines with 3% playing at least once a week;
• gambling participation had fallen slightly over the previous decade;
• 5.4% of ACT adults reported some degree of problem gambling symptoms including 1.5% and 0.5% meeting the criteria for moderate risk and problem gambling;
• 90% of moderate risk/problem gamblers had played gaming machines (not necessarily exclusively);
• Only about one in five people with gambling problems have ever sought help; and
• People with gambling problems tend not to get help for gambling problems unless they are facing serious consequences.

Davidson, T. & Rodgers, B. (2010).  2009 Survey of the nature and extent of gambling and problem gambling in the Australian Capital Territory. ACT Gambling & Racing Commission: Canberra. (PDF 717 KB).


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