Gambling Participation, Expenditure and Risk of Harm in Australia, 1997–1998 and 2010–2011

By Armstrong, A. R., Thomas, A., & Abbott, M.

Abstract: Gambling-related harm results primarily from financial losses. Internationally Australia continues to rank as the largest spending nation per capita on gambling products. This would suggest that Australian gamblers are at disproportionately high risk of harm despite almost two decades of industry scrutiny and regulation, and investment in research, treatment and education programs. However, declines in participation rates, per capita expenditure, household expenditure, national disposable income spent on gambling and problem gambling rates have been cited as evidence that fewer people are gambling, that gamblers are spending less, and that gambling safety in Australia has improved. The current study investigated these propositions using national population and accounts data, and statistics from Australia’s two population-representative gambling surveys conducted in 1997–1998 and 2010–2011. Despite a falling participation rate the study found no real change in the number of people gambling overall, and increasing numbers consuming casino table games, race wagering and sports betting. Further found were increases rather than decreases in average gambler expenditure, overall, and across most products, particularly electronic gaming machines (EGMs). Potentially risky levels of average expenditure were observed in both periods, overall and for race wagering, casino table gaming, and EGMs. Changes in the proportion of income spent on gambling suggest risks declined overall and for race wagering and casino table gaming, but increased for EGMs. Finally, while problem gambling statistics were not comparable between periods, the study found double the number of moderate risk gamblers previously estimated for 2010–2011 amongst the 2 million Australians found to have experienced one or more gambling-related problems. The findings have implications for public health policy and resourcing, and the way in which prevalence and expenditure statistics have been interpreted by researchers, government and industry in Australia and elsewhere.

Armstrong, A. R., Thomas, A., & Abbott, M. (2017). Gambling Participation, Expenditure and Risk of Harm in Australia, 1997–1998 and 2010–2011. Journal of Gambling Studies, 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-017-9708-0

 

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On the feasibility of in-venue observations of EGM gamblers and game characteristics

Jason Landon, Katie Palmer du Preez, Maria Bellringer, Max Abbott, and Amanda Roberts.

Detailed observational studies of undisturbed gambler behaviour in venues are rare, especially if the focus is on continuous gambling such as electronic gaming machines (EGMs). EGMs are the main source of harmful gambling in New Zealand and all EGMs in New Zealand now include a mandatory pop-up message feature. The present study reports on 48 hours of in-situ observations of EGM gamblers in casino and non-casino (pub) venues in New Zealand and sought to establish whether relatively detailed observations of EGM features and gambler behaviour in venues were possible. Pop-up messages were the EGM feature focused on given their harm-minimisation potential, and the relative ease with which they can be observed. However, other EGM features were also documented along with descriptive accounts of associated gambler behaviour. The results establish that relatively detailed (quantitative or qualitative) observational data can be collected in venues using smart phones. The data showed pop-up messages were generally attended to but had little observable effect on gambler behaviour in venues. Direct in-situ observation of gamblers can provide ecologically valid information to compliment more common experimental and survey-based approaches. Some suggestions for developing the procedure are discussed.

The effects of alcohol expectancy and intake on slot machine gambling behavior (open access)

By Dominic Sagoe, Rune Aune Mentzoni, Tony Leino, Helge Molde, Sondre Haga, Mikjel Fredericson Gjernes, Daniel Hanss, and Ståle Pallesen.

Background and aims: Although alcohol intake and gambling often co-occur in related venues, there is conflicting evidence regarding the effects of alcohol expectancy and intake on gambling behavior. We therefore conducted an experimental investigation of the effects of alcohol expectancy and intake on slot machine gambling behavior.
Methods: Participants were 184 (females = 94) individuals [age range: 18–40 (mean = 21.9) years] randomized to four independent conditions differing in information/expectancy about beverage (told they received either alcohol or placebo) and beverage intake [actually ingesting low (target blood alcohol concentration [BAC] < 0.40 mg/L) vs. moderate (target BAC > 0.40 mg/L; ≈0.80 mg/L) amounts of alcohol]. All participants completed self-report questionnaires assessing demographic variables, subjective intoxication, alcohol effects (stimulant and sedative), and gambling factors (behavior and problems, evaluation, and beliefs). Participants also gambled on a simulated slot machine.
Results: A significant main effect of beverage intake on subjective intoxication and alcohol effects was detected as expected. No significant main or interaction effects were detected for number of gambling sessions, bet size and variation, remaining credits at termination, reaction time, and game evaluation.
Conclusion: Alcohol expectancy and intake do not affect gambling persistence, dissipation of funds, reaction time, or gambling enjoyment.

A meta-regression analysis of 41 Australian problem gambling prevalence estimates and their relationship to total spending on electronic gaming machines (open access)

By Francis Markham, Martin Young, Bruce Doran, and Mark Sugden.

Background: Many jurisdictions regularly conduct surveys to estimate the prevalence of problem gambling in their adult populations. However, the comparison of such estimates is problematic due to methodological variations between studies. Total consumption theory suggests that an association between mean electronic gaming machine (EGM) and casino gambling losses and problem gambling prevalence estimates may exist. If this is the case, then changes in EGM losses may be used as a proxy indicator for changes in problem gambling prevalence. To test for this association this study examines the relationship between aggregated losses on electronic gaming machines (EGMs) and problem gambling prevalence estimates for Australian states and territories between 1994 and 2016.

Methods: A Bayesian meta-regression analysis of 41 cross-sectional problem gambling prevalence estimates was undertaken using EGM gambling losses, year of survey and methodological variations as predictor variables. General population studies of adults in Australian states and territory published before 1 July 2016 were considered in scope. 41 studies were identified, with a total of 267,367 participants. Problem gambling prevalence, moderate-risk problem gambling prevalence, problem gambling screen, administration mode and frequency threshold were extracted from surveys. Administrative data on EGM and casino gambling loss data were extracted from government reports and expressed as the proportion of household disposable income lost.

Results: Money lost on EGMs is correlated with problem gambling prevalence. An increase of 1% of household disposable income lost on EGMs and in casinos was associated with problem gambling prevalence estimates that were 1.33 times higher [95% credible interval 1.04, 1.71]. There was no clear association between EGM losses and moderate-risk problem gambling prevalence estimates. Moderate-risk problem gambling prevalence estimates were not explained by the models (I 2 ≥ 0.97; R 2 ≤ 0.01).

Conclusions: The present study adds to the weight of evidence that EGM losses are associated with the prevalence of problem gambling. No patterns were evident among moderate-risk problem gambling prevalence estimates, suggesting that this measure is either subject to pronounced measurement error or lacks construct validity. The high degree of residual heterogeneity raises questions about the validity of comparing problem gambling prevalence estimates, even after adjusting for methodological variations between studies.

The Effects of Pop-up Harm Minimisation Messages on Electronic Gaming Machine Gambling Behaviour in New Zealand

In New Zealand a simple pop-up message feature that provides gambling session information and forces a break in play is mandatory on all electronic gaming machines in all venues (EGMs). Previous research has demonstrated small effects of more sophisticated pop-up messages tested predominantly in laboratory environments. The present research examined gambler engagement with and views on the New Zealand pop-up messages and on the relationship between pop-up messages and EGM expenditure. A sample of gamblers was recruited at casino and non-casino (pub) EGM venues. Most participants were aware of pop-up messages (57 %) and many saw them often (38 %). Among gamblers who reported seeing pop-up messages, half read the message content, and a quarter believed that pop-up messages helped them control the amount of money they spend on gambling. Participants who reported being likely to stop gambling in response to pop-up messages spent significantly less money on gambling when variables that were independently associated with EGM expenditure were controlled for. A modest harm minimisation effect of the pop-up message feature that has been operating in New Zealand for 5 years was evident. Suggestions for improvement of the harm minimisation potential of the current pop-up message feature are discussed.

The relationship between player losses and gambling-related harm: evidence from nationally representative cross-sectional surveys in four countries

Background and Aims: Flaws in previous studies mean that findings of J-shaped risk curves for gambling should be disregarded. The current study aims to estimate the shape of risk curves for gambling losses and risk of gambling-related harm (a) for total gambling losses and (b) disaggregated by gambling activity.

Design: Four cross-sectional surveys.

Setting: Nationally representative surveys of adults in Australia (1999), Canada (2000), Finland (2011) and Norway (2002).

Participants: A total of 10 632 Australian adults, 3120 Canadian adults, 4484 people aged 15–74 years in Finland and 5235 people aged 15–74 years in Norway.

Measurements: Problem gambling risk was measured using the modified South Oaks Gambling Screen, the NORC DSM Screen for Gambling Problems and the Problem Gambling Severity Index…

Source: Markham, F., Young, M., & Doran, B. (2015). The relationship between player losses and gambling-related harm: evidence from nationally representative cross-sectional surveys in four countries: Player loss risk curves for gambling harms. Addiction, n/a–n/a. http://doi.org/10.1111/add.13178