The South Australian government released a report that shows nearly 3 times as many residents gamble online than they did in 2012. The 2018 Gambling Prevalence Study showed that 13% of South Australians bet online in 2018. A similar study in 2012 reported that only 5% of voters bet online.
The researchers said bookmaker bets, fantasy sports, and “novelty gaming” remain the most popular forms of betting online.
The government, which maintains one of the strictest set of gaming laws in Australia, spun the news as alarming. In truth, the report show a small yet growing number of South Aussie people play online.
Michelle Lensink, SA’s Minister for Human Services, said of the 2018 data, “The increase in online gambling is concerning and reflective of a greater accessibility to the Internet, but is also an important sign that the State Government needs to continue to assist people gambling online through our help services.”
Lensink said the collection of data helps the South Australian government set future guidelines and build tools to help problem gamblers. With a complete picture of people’s gaming habbits the Human Services Ministry can respond to the needs of its citizens.
The State Minsiter said, “The survey data allows us to better target these services and inform our plans for raising awareness about gambling harm and reducing the stigma around seeking help.”
When accounting for land-based betting habits, overall gaming declined over the 6-year period. Fewer people visit clubs and pubs for the poker machines. Instead, more Aussies stay in to punt online or choose other forms of entertainment.
Michelle Lensink said, “Overall in South Australia, I’m pleased to see that the number of people gambling has decreased since the last survey in 2012 (from 69 to 65 per cent). The number of problem and at-risk gamblers has remained consistent.”
South Australia’s Human Services minister said young adult gamblers face greater risk of harm than they did 6 years prior. Also, Aboriginal gamblers continue to be a high-risk group. Lensink said several other groups have a heightened risk.
Listing off the highest risk group, Lensink said, “Certain groups were more likely to be at-risk, including men, the unemployed — people who are single, divorced, or separated — and with a household income below $25,000 per year.”
The key findings included: “People aged between 18 and 24 and Aboriginal people were also at greater risk….The survey also indicates levels of harm incurred by gamblers, and those around them who are adversely affected by gambling behaviours.”
South Australia touted its efforts to reduce harm. It pointed out 28 gambling help services across all SA regions, which the Department of Human Services’ “Office for Problem Gambling” funds.
These “help services” include support to problem gamblers, intensive therapy, and financial counseling. Of the 28 services the state backs, 12 of them contain specific cultural and linguistic resources to help SA’s Aboriginal punters.
The Office for Problem Gambling funds a 24/7 helpline to provide telephone and online counseling and support. The helpline provides punters and their families with information and counseling, while offering referrals to the Gambling Help Services.
State regulators also work directly with gambling venues to develop in-venue harm minimisation materials.
South Australia strengthened regulations by making the Consumer and Business Services (CBS) the sole regulator of gambling in the state. The CBS took over in December 2018 and instituted a new suite of protections for problem gamblers.
One key tool is the introduction of “sameday” barring orders. Punters can apply for and receive a barring order on the same day. This keeps problem gamblers from backing out of their decision to self-exclude while waiting for a barring order.