Gambling in suburban Australia: initial findings

pokie machines in a gambling venue

The Gambling in Suburban Australia study is designed to provide evidence of the contextual and environmental factors that influence gambling at a neighbourhood level and how this affects local gambling.

Preliminary findings

While an analysis and full write up of the study is underway the preliminary findings show that:

  • High levels of exposure to high intensity forms of gambling, combined with high levels of social stress, often contribute to severe crisis and ongoing harms from gambling in poorer neighbourhoods.
  • Substantial harms are also occurring in middle income areas, however, in these communities those affected are more likely to have access to resources to support them in absorbing - and in some instances - recovering  from harm.

Study locations

This pilot study initially explored two local areas of Melbourne:

  • one site in the western suburbs with high poker machine expenditure and high levels of relative socio-economic disadvantage; and
  • one site in the eastern with mid-range levels of disadvantage and poker machine expenditure.

Each site is similar in terms of:

  • its population size;
  • the distance from the CBD (although in opposite directions); and
  • the number of households.

However, there are differences in socio-economic status and migrant populations:

  • The western suburbs site has a higher level of socio-economic disadvantage – with socio-economic indexes for the suburbs scoring well below the average.
  • The eastern suburbs site has socio-economic indexes around average.

The key differences between the two areas are that the western suburbs site has:

  • many more gambling venues;
  • double the number of electronic gaming machines (pokies); and
  • more than 3 times the amount of per capita pokies losses.
  Site 1 (West) Site 2 (East)
Geographic & demographic data
Adult population 40,619 46,492
No. households 20,264 20,159
Range SEIFA IRSD (Suburb) 801-907 998-1,082
Gambling data
Clubs venues 3 2
Hotels venues 5 1
Total EGM losses FY 2014 $55,142,613 $18,605,994
No. EGM 407 205
Loss/EGM $135,486 $90,761
Expenditure/adult $1,358 $400

Research methods

The study used multiple research methods including:

  • analysis of regulator and census data
  • a survey
  • unannounced observations of poker machine venues
  • interviews with gamblers, significant others and professionals
  • focus groups with local residents

The researchers are seeking to account for differences in the distribution of gambling related harm between places.

Gambling support

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