An explosion of sports betting, especially among youth, and its promotion, is blurring the line between sports and gambling. A federal parliamentary inquiry has recently thrown the spotlight on the issue and this latest SCU study adds more insight to the debate.
While fewer Australians are gambling, those participating in sports betting have doubled, according to new data released by Southern Cross University (SCU).
The national phone survey of more than 15,000 Australians found the prevalence of gambling in 2011 was lower (64 per cent) compared to a similar study in 1999 (82 per cent) by the Productivity Commission’s Interactive Gambling Study.
However the rates of participation in interactive gambling activities, particularly sports betting, have risen substantially (0.6 per cent in 1999 to 8.06 per cent in 2011).
Dr Sally Gainsbury from SCU’s Centre for Gambling Education and Research presented the findings this week in Melbourne at the opening of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week (RGAW), a national initiative that aims to raise awareness of the importance of responsible gambling practices.
‘The nature of gambling participation has shifted significantly over the past 12 years. Fewer Australians are gambling on all types of activities, with the exception of sports betting, which has doubled in popularity,’ said Dr Gainsbury.
The most popular form of gambling activity was lottery, followed by scratch tickets, race betting and electronic gaming machines.
Notably, electronic gaming machines (or pokies) were considerably less popular in 2011 than in 1999, with participation declining from 39 per cent to just 19 per cent of adults and falling from the third to fourth most popular gambling activity.
Compared to land-based gamblers, interactive gamblers were more likely to be male, younger adults, university educated, with internet access at home and work.
People who gambled online were more involved gamblers overall, playing a greater number of different activities and gambling more frequently.
‘This is consistent with previous research and suggests that easy and convenient access to internet gambling sites or applications and motivation and interest in this activity are important factors related to online gambling,’ Dr Gainsbury said.
‘The increased advertising and promotion of this activity may also be driving people online.’
Internet gamblers also reported losing more money each year gambling and 17 per cent reported that using electronic funds, such as bank transfers or credit cards, increased their expenditure.
‘Young people need to be educated about risks of internet gambling and in particular the use of offshore sites, which may have few responsible gambling and consumer protection strategies in place,’ she said.
Free-play, simulated gambling games also appear to have increased in popularity with 32 per cent of internet gamblers and 11 per cent of land-based gamblers reporting that they had played these games.
‘The use of free gambling games requires careful consideration owing to the potential for these games to normalise the activity and have inflated payout rates, which may mislead people into thinking they could win if they played for real money,’ Dr Gainsbury said.
The interactive gambling survey team is composed of Dr Sally Gainsbury, CGER director Professor Nerilee Hing, Professor Alex Blaszczynski from the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney, the University of Lethbridge’s Dr Robert Wood, and Professor Dan Lubman from Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, a major Australian telephone and online gambling-help provider.
The telephone survey, conducted in November and December 2011, together with an online survey, as well as interviews and focus groups, are part of a larger research grant valued at more than $900,000 and commissioned by Gambling Research Australia, an initiative of the federal, state and territory governments, looking at the impacts of interactive forms of gambling technology.
The research is expected to be completed later this year.
Interactive gambling technologies include the use of computers, mobile phones, wireless devices and smart televisions to access online gambling sites.
For a copy of Dr Gainsbury’s presentation, email [email protected].