New South Wales has a long history with gambling and an unwanted tag of the state with the most problem gamblers. An NSW survey has revealed an overall decline in gambling in the state.
Central Queensland University conducted the survey via telephone, calling 10,012 NSW residents. Results were weighted to be consistent with the ABS Estimated Resident Population data for NSW. This gave the research an accurate overview of the gambling habits of people calling NSW home.
The study revealed 53% of NSW adults survey had gambled at least once during the past 12 months. While this represents more than half of the population, it’s a significant decline in gambling from the 65% in 2011. There has been a decline in gambling across the board, with the exception of bingo and betting on non-sporting events. Two per cent of respondents played bingo and one per cent bet on non-sporting events.
Buying lottery tickets remains the most prevalent form of gambling with 37% of NSW adults playing the lottery. Electronic gaming machines, including pokies, with 16% of adults using them in the past year.
Only betting on horse and greyhound racing and purchasing “scratchies” had double-digit participation.
Three forms of online gambling came in with less than 1% of adults. 0.5% of NSW adults played at an online casino in the previous 12-months. Only 0.3% of those surveyed admitted to playing fantasy sports, the same number of those playing online poker.
It is unsurprising that online poker participation is so low because the majority of sites stopped allowing Australian poker players to use their facilities. Many Australian professional poker players left the country to continue their careers. Others either use a VPN to mask their country of residence or play on the handful of sites allowing Aussies. The report did not highlight the decline in gambling at the online poker tables.
Men are more likely to gamble than women with 57% of males gambling last year compared to 48% of females. The majority of gamblers only participated in one form of gambling with 46%. Some 24% took part in two forms of gambling, with 29% who responded using three forms of gambling.
The study also revealed older gamblers are more likely to purchase lottery tickets. Younger gamblers gamble on the most variants, including playing pokies, sports betting, and casino table games.
Adults identified as problem gamblers increased despite the decline in gambling. 0.8% of those surveyed back in 2011 were considered problem gamblers compared to 1% this time around. Consistent with other studies, men are more likely to be problem gamblers (1.7%) compared to women (0.4%).
A further 9.4% of those surveyed are classified as low or moderate-risk gamblers. Low-risk gamblers have declined significantly since 2011 although moderate -risk gamblers have remained almost constant.
Problem gambling is more of an issue for several demographic groups. Those who are younger, have lesser levels of education, and whose first language is other than English are most at risk of developing a gambling problem.
Some 6.34% of gamblers reported at least one form of harm related to their gambling problems. The most common issues are feeling depressed (2.93%), followed by distress about their gambling (2.70%). Loss of sleep (2.21%) comes in third. Thankfully, the decline in gambling had reduced the most severe harm types. Only 0.26% of problem gamblers were declared bankrupt. 0.31% of problem gamblers did something illegal to fund their gambling or pay gambling debts. According to the study, playing pokies has the greatest risk for problems and harm. It has almost double the per-person impact of online poker, the next most harmful activity.
The NSW government is dedicated to helping problem gamblers. It is spending $35 million in 2019/20 on responsible gambling programs and initiatives.