Gambling activity in Australia

Findings from wave 15 of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey
Research Report – November 2017

2. Gambling participation

Introduction

This chapter presents estimates of the prevalence of Australian adults (aged 18 years or over) who participated in one or more of 10 gambling activities in a typical month of 2015. People were considered to have participated, and to have been regular gamblers, if they spent money on a given activity in a typical month during the year. The report refers almost entirely to these gamblers. Less frequent gambling participation was not asked about in the HILDA survey. Estimates of the amounts spent on the 10 activities are the focus of Chapter 3.

The 10 activities include lotteries, instant scratch tickets, electronic gaming machines (EGMs), race betting, sports, keno, casino table games, bingo, private betting and poker.

Also estimated is the number of activities in which people typically participated, and the proportions of participants who engaged in each combination of activities.

Finally, participants in each activity are profiled and compared to the Australian adult population on a wide range of sociodemographic characteristics.

Key findings

  • An estimated 39% of Australian adults - 6.8 million people - gambled in a typical month of 2015 (i.e., regularly).
  • Among these 6.8 million regular gamblers, participation in lotteries was most common (76%), followed by instant scratch tickets (22%) and electronic gaming machines (21%).
  • Approximately one third (38%) of gamblers participated in multiple activities.
  • Compared to the Australian adult population, regular gambling participants were substantially over-represented among males (i.e., 54% of gamblers were males versus 49% of Australian adults), people aged 50 and older, those who had 10 years or less schooling or a certificate or diploma, people who were retired, who lived alone or with another adult, who lived outside a major city, and those who drew their main source of income from welfare payments.
  • There were wide-ranging sociodemographic differences between those who gambled regularly on each activity and the Australian adult population.

Gambling participation

In a typical month of 2015, population weighted HILDA Survey estimates indicate that 39% of Australian adults gambled on one or more of the 10 activities listed in Table 2.1. Among these "regular gamblers", lottery participation was most common (76%). Other commonly reported activities were the regular purchase of instant scratch tickets (22%) and playing of electronic gaming machines (EGMs; 21%). Least likely to be a typical monthly event were casino table gambling, bingo, private betting and poker, with participation rates of 2-3% among those who gambled.

Table 2.1: Estimated number and proportion of Australian adults who gambled in a typical month
Activity Estimated number Australian population Regular gambling population
  '000 % %
Lottery 5,186 29.6 76.2
Instant scratch tickets 1,495 8.5 22.0
EGMs 1,418 8.1 20.8
Race betting 975 5.6 14.3
Sports betting 574 3.3 8.4
Keno 549 3.1 8.1
Casino table games 192 1.1 2.8
Bingo 186 1.1 2.7
Private betting 155 0.9 2.3
Poker 132 0.8 1.9
Any gambling 6,809 38.9 100.0

Notes: Percentages based on weighted data. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

Number of gambling activities

Table 2.2 shows the proportion of adults who participated in one or more of the 10 gambling activities in a typical month.

The survey found that almost one quarter (24%) of Australian adults spent money on a single activity in a typical month, while 15% participated in multiple activities. Among those who gambled, 38% spent money on more than one activity.

Table 2.2: Number of gambling activities in a typical month
  Australian population Regular gambling population
Number of activities % %
0 61.7 -
1 23.6 61.6
2 9.3 24.2
3 3.7 9.8
4+ 1.7 4.4

Notes: Statistics based on weighted data. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

Tables 2.3 and 2.4 show the proportion of gamblers who participated in each single activity, the mean number of activities that participants in each activity engaged in, and the proportion who engaged in additional activities. In these tables, the most common activity combinations in a typical month can be seen.

Most lottery participants (59%) gambled solely on that activity in a typical month. Gamblers who participated in any other activity usually participated in one or two additional activities (2.3 to 3.4 on average), and included lottery in the mix. For instance, as shown in Table 2.3, keno participants very rarely spent money on that activity alone (only 10% did). They usually spent money on three activities (2.9 on average). As shown in Table 2.4, the additional activities were most commonly the lotteries, which two thirds of keno players participated in regularly (67%), and EGMs, which half played regularly (48%).

Table 2.3: Number of gambling activities among regular gamblers
 Participants in… This activity only (%) Mean number of activities
Lottery 59.3 1.63
Instant scratch tickets 19.0 2.32
EGMs 25.4 2.46
Race betting 17.5 2.65
Sports betting 17.4 2.82
Keno 10.2 2.90
Casino table games 20.4 3.05
Bingo 28.0 2.71
Private betting 20.1 3.36
Poker 19.9 3.21
Any gambling 61.6 1.59

Notes: Statistics based on weighted data. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

Table 2.4: Gambling activity participation cross-over
  Participation rate in other activities (%)
  Lottery Instant scratch tickets EGMs Race betting Sports betting Keno Casino table games Bingo Private betting Poker
Lottery - 20.6 14.6 10.1 5.1 7.1 1.5 1.8 1.5 1.2
Instant scratch tickets 71.5 - 24.7 10.3 6.9 9.6 2.3 3.0 2.1 1.5
EGMs 53.3 26.1 - 20.1 10.8 18.7 5.4 4.8 3.2 3.3
Race betting 53.6 15.8 29.2 - 33.4 15.4 5.8 3.2 5.2 2.9
Sports betting 46.0 17.9 26.6 56.7 - 12.3 7.6 2.3 7.9 5.0
Keno 67.2 26.1 48.2 27.3 12.8 - 3.7 4.6 4.0 4.7
Casino table games 39.6 18.2 39.7 29.7 22.9 10.7 - 9.1 18.6 16.2
Bingo 50.8 24.2 36.7 16.7 7.1 13.6 9.4 - 9.2 2.9
Private betting 51.2 20.7 29.2 32.8 29.1 14.0 23.0 11.0 - 25.4
Poker 47.6 17.4 36.0 21.8 21.8 19.7 23.7 4.1 30.0 -

Notes: Percentages based on weighted data. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding

Sociodemographic characteristics of regular gamblers

Table 2.5 shows the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of regular gamblers in 2015. Their characteristics are compared to the Australian adult population.

Compared to the Australian adult population, a significantly higher proportion of regular gamblers were male. That is, 49% of Australian adults were male whereas 54% of regular gamblers were male. Regular gamblers were further over-represented among people aged 50 and older, those born in Europe, those who had 10 years or less schooling, or had certificate or diploma, people who were retired, who lived alone or with only their partner, who lived outside a major city, and those who drew their main source of income from welfare payments.

Note that the proportions provided in Table 2.5 can be used to estimate the national gambling participation rates for each demographic group, such as the percentage of Australians who were male gamblers. For example, we know that 38.9% of Australians were regular gamblers (Table 2.1), of whom 54.2% were male (Table 2.5). Therefore, 21% (54.2% of 38.9%) of Australians were male gamblers in 2015.

Table 2.5: Sociodemographic characteristics of Australian adults and regular gamblers
  Australian adults Regular gamblers
Subpopulation categories % %
Sex    
Male 49.0 54.2↑
Female 51.0 45.8↓
Age group    
18-29 22.5 11.9↓
30-49 34.9 34.0
50-64 24.1 30.4↑
65+ 18.6 23.8↑
Indigenous Status    
Non-Indigenous 97.7 97.6
Indigenous 2.3 2.4
Region of birth a    
Australia 69.7 71.9↑
Europe 10.8 11.9↑
Asia 10.7 7.3↓
First Language spoken    
English 85.6 90.3↑
Other 14.4 9.7↓
Highest education Level    
Below year 10 8.1 9.2↑
Completed year 10 15.3 19.0↑
Completed year 12 15.8 13.0↓
Certificate or diploma 33.1 37.9↑
Bachelors or higher 27.7 20.9↓
Employment    
Employed full-time 43.6 47.4↑
Employed part-time 20.1 16.3↓
Unemployed-looking for work 3.2 2.3↓
Retired 19.7 25.0↑
Full-time student 3.4 1.2↓
Other not employed-not looking for work 9.9 7.9↓
Relationship status    
Married/in a de facto relationship 54.6 59.5↑
Single 45.4 40.5↓
Household composition    
Single adult household 12.3 14.1↑
Couple only household 24.4 28.6↑
Household with children 30.3 25.6↓
Multiple adult household 33.0 31.7
Housing tenure    
Own outright 17.3 18.3
Own with mortgage 52.7 53.3
Rent 27.7 26.0
Remoteness    
Major city 72.5 69.1↓
Inner regional 18.2 20.0↑
Outer regional/remote 9.3 11.0↑
SEIFA quintile b    
Lowest 19.6 19.7
2 18.2 19.6↑
Middle 19.3 19.8
4 20.6 20.0
Highest 22.4 21.0↓
Equivalised disposable household income c    
<$29,500 19.8 19.3
$29,500-$41,499 20.4 19.4
$41,500-$53,999 19.4 20.2
$54,000-$73,499 20.2 20.8
$73,500+ 20.2 20.3
Main source of household income    
Wages/salary/business 73.5 70.3↓
Govt. pension/allowance/benefit 18.2 20.7↑
Superannuation/annuity/investment 8.1 8.7

Notes: Percentages based on weighted data. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding or non-response.
a Only region of origins representing >10% of the population are presented. b Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas 2011. c Household income after tax, weighted for size and composition of household. ↑ and ↓ are used to indicate values significantly above or below the general Australian population at p<.05.

Sociodemographic characteristics of regular gamblers by activity

Table 2.6 provides a sociodemographic breakdown of participants in each of the 10 activities. Their characteristics are compared to the Australian adult population.

As shown in the table, there were many significant sociodemographic differences between the activity participants and the Australian population. Given the large number of significant differences, only those which were considered substantial are described below.5

Lotteries. Compared to the Australian adult population, a substantially higher proportion of lottery participants were aged 50 and over. That is, while 43% of Australian adults were aged 50 and over, a much larger percentage (58%) of lottery players were aged 50 and over. A substantially higher proportion were also born in Europe, had 10 years or less of schooling or had completed a certificate or diploma, were retired, married/in a de facto relationship, and lived with only their partner.

Instant scratch tickets. A substantially higher proportion of participants were aged 50 and older, had 10 years or less of schooling, were retired, lived alone or with only their partner, and lived outside of a major city.

Electronic gaming machines. EGM players were substantially over-represented among those aged 50 and older, people who identified as Indigenous, who had 10 years or less of schooling or had completed a certificate or diploma, were retired, lived alone or with only their partner, lived in an inner regional area, those who had lowest incomes, and those who drew their main source of income from welfare payments.

Race betting. A substantially higher proportion of race bettors were male, aged between 50 and 64, born in Australia, had 10 years of schooling or had completed a certificate or diploma, were employed full-time, lived alone or with only their partner, and lived in an outer regional or remote area. Race bettors were further over-represented among those with the highest incomes.

Sports betting. Relative to the Australian adult population, a substantially higher proportion were male, younger than 50, Indigenous, born in Australia, had 12 years of schooling, were employed full-time, single, had the highest incomes, and drew their main source of income from employment.

Keno. Participants were substantially over-represented among males, people aged 30 and older, those who identified as Indigenous, had 10 years or less of schooling or had completed a certificate or diploma, were retired, lived alone, lived outside a major city, lived in a low socioeconomic area, and those who drew their main source of income from welfare payments.

Casino table games. A substantially higher proportion of participants were male, younger than 30, Indigenous, had 12 years of schooling, were employed full-time, single, lived with multiple adults, lived in a major city, lived in a high socioeconomic area, and drew their main source of income from employment.

Bingo. Compared to the Australian population, a substantially higher proportion of participants were female, aged 65 and over, had 10 years or less of schooling, were retired or not employed and not looking for work, lived alone, lived in the lowest socioeconomic areas, had the lowest incomes, and drew their main source of income from welfare payments.

Private betting. Participants were substantially over-represented among males, people born in Asia, and those who owned their own home with a mortgage.

Poker participants. Relative to the Australian adult population, a substantially higher proportion of poker players were male, did not have a university degree, were employed full-time, lived with multiple adults, and drew their main source of income from employment.

Note that the proportions provided in Table 2.6 can be used to estimate national regular gambling participation rates for each demographic group. For example, we know that 3.3% of Australians were regular sport bettors (Table 2.1), of whom 88% were male (Table 2.6). Therefore, 2.9% (88% of 3.3%) of Australians were male sports bettors and 0.4% (12% of 3.3%) of Australians were female sports bettors.

Table 2.6: Sociodemographic characteristics of regular gamblers by activity
  Australian adults Lottery Instant scratch tickets EGMs Race betting Sports betting Keno Casino table games Bingo Private betting Poker
Subpopulation Categories % % % % % % % % % % %
Sex           
Male 49.0 52.8↑ 45.3↓ 54.3↑ 80.9↑ 88.0↑ 60.2↑ 76.6↑ 19.3↓ 62.9↑ 65.8↑
Female 51.0 47.2↓ 54.7↑ 45.7↓ 19.1↓ 12.0↓ 39.8↓ 23.4↓ 80.7↑ 37.1↓ 34.2↓
Age group           
18-29 22.5 6.2↓ 12.5↓ 16.1↓ 15.5↓ 32.7↑ 10.0↓ 46.2↑ 8.0# 22.5 30.2
30-49 34.9 35.8 30.5↓ 25.3↓ 34.9 42.4↑ 39.7 30.8 23.6 44.0 41.2
50-64 24.1 33.4↑ 33.2↑ 29.6↑ 31.4↑ 18.6 28.1 16.3 29.5 15.0 18.3
65+ 18.6 24.6↑ 23.8↑ 29.0↑ 18.2 6.3↓ 22.1 np 38.9↑ 18.5# 10.3#
Indigenous status           
Non-Indigenous 97.7 98.1 96.9 95.1↓ 96.4 95.4↓ 94.5↓ 95.0↓ 95.0 97.1 95.5
Indigenous 2.3 1.9 3.1 4.9↑ 3.6 4.6↑ 5.5↑ 5.0# 5.0# np np
Region of birth a           
Australia 69.7 69.7 72.8 78.1↑ 80.7↑ 82.0↑ 78.8↑ 68.6 65.2 59.0 63.3
Europe 10.8 13.3↑ 10.0 12.2 8.8 6.0↓ 11.9 4.0 14.6 8.4# 10.3#
Asia 10.7 8.0↓ 6.3↓ 3.8↓ 3.6↓ 3.1# 3.7↓ 13.9 9.3 23.1# 14.9
First language spoken           
English 85.6 89.3↑ 91.2↑ 94.2↑ 95.0↑ 96.6↑ 95.4↑ 82.4 82.4 77.6 77.4
Other 14.4 10.7↓ 8.8↓ 5.8↓ 5.0# 3.4# 4.6# 17.6# 17.6 22.4# 22.6#
Highest education level           
Below year 10 8.1 9.5↑ 9.4 12.0↑ 6.2 3.4# 12.5↑ np 23.9↑ 12.8# 7.6#
Completed year 10 15.3 19.0↑ 20.4↑ 21.6↑ 20.2↑ 14.7 22.1↑ 14.8 29.3↑ 11.6# 18.7
Completed year 12 15.8 11.1↓ 11.9↓ 16.5 15.8 22.0↑ 13.4 27.6↑ 8.3↓ 9.8# 13.3#
Certificate or Diploma 33.1 39.1↑ 36.6 38.9↑ 40.5↑ 33.3 42.3↑ 34.6 28.7 36.5 45.0
Bachelors or higher 27.7 21.3↓ 21.7↓ 11.0↓ 17.4↓ 26.6 9.8↓ 20.7 np 29.3 15.3↓
Employment           
Employed full-time 43.6 48.7↑ 43.4 38.9↓ 55.5↑ 70.4↑ 47.7 59.9↑ 24.1↓ 56.7 64.7↑
Employed part-time 20.1 15.9↓ 17.7 17.1↓ 15.3↓ 14.1↓ 18.3 20.6 8.4# 16.8# 12.6#
Unemployed-looking for work 3.2 2.0↓ 2.4 4.2 2.8# 2.0# 4.0 3.4# 2.5# np np
Retired 19.7 25.3↑ 25.5↑ 31.0↑ 19.8 7.3↓ 23.6↑ np 46.7↑ 13.3# 6.4#
Full-time student 3.4 0.4↓ 1.6# 1.3# np 2.6# np 4.7# np 5.0# np
Other not employed-not looking for work 9.9 7.6↓ 9.4 7.5↓ 4.5↓ 3.5# 6.2↓ np 17.8↑ np np
Relationship status           
Married/in a de facto relationship 54.6 64.4↑ 56.7 50.1↓ 54.0 44.5↓ 51.9 39.9↓ 52.3 53.4 44.1
Single 45.4 35.6↓ 43.3 49.9↑ 46.0 55.5↑ 48.1 60.1↑ 47.7 46.6 55.9
Household composition           
Single adult household 12.3 13.4↑ 14.5↑ 14.9↑ 15.0↑ 13.4 15.3↑ 7.6↓ 23.0↑ 13.0 14.5
Couple-only household 24.4 29.9↑ 28.4↑ 30.5↑ 29.5↑ 24.0 27.0 10.9# 29.4 16.8 12.3↓
Household with children 30.3 26.3↓ 22.4↓ 16.4↓ 25.1↓ 24.4 20.7↓ 22.3 20.2 31.3 25.4
Multiple adult household 33.0 30.5↓ 34.7 38.3 30.4 38.3 37.0 59.2↑ 27.4 38.8 47.9↑
Housing tenure           
Own outright 17.3 19.0↑ 18.5 19.5 19.0 15.4 16.4 14.2# 12.2 10.7# 9.9#
Own with mortgage 52.7 55.1↑ 50.6 49.6 53.5 54.9 52.2 61.7 50.4 68.3↑ 57.0
Rent 27.7 23.5↓ 28.4 28.4 25.6 28.7 27.7 23.8 32.1 19.7 31.1
Remoteness           
Major city 72.5 69.7↓ 65↓ 64.8↓ 66.8↓ 77.1 53.5↓ 86.0↑ 66.2 75.9 79.7
Inner regional 18.2 19.2 21.8↑ 24.3↑ 19.8 16.8 28.4↑ 7.5↓ 23.6 np 14.8
Outer regional/remote 9.3 11.0↑ 13.2↑ 10.9 13.4↑ 6.1↓ 18.1↑ 6.6# 10.2 13.5 5.5#
SEIFA quintileb           
Lowest 19.6 19.0 21.8 27.6↑ 22.2 19.6 32.3↑ 10.3↓ 41.2↑ 18.0 14.6
2 18.2 19.8↑ 18.3 20.3 19.6 14.8 23.8# 24.4 19.9 18.3 19.9
Middle 19.3 20.0 18.5 19.8 14.8↓ 14.7↓ 19.8# 7.6↓ 17.8 14.8 20.4#
4 20.6 19.8 20.2 17.1↓ 23.2 24.8 13.0↓ 25.0 10.2↓ 21.4 22.6
Highest 22.4 21.5 21.2 15.2↓ 20.3 26.2 11.0↓ 32.7 np 27.6 22.6#
Equivalised disposable household incomec         
<$29,500 19.8 18.4↓ 20.0 25.2↑ 17.5 10.1↓ 21.7 10.3 42.4↑ 17.3 12.8
$29,500-$41,499 20.4 19.4 18.9 19.6 17.5 17.5 18.5 14.2 16.0 18.1 21.1
$41,500-$53,999 19.4 20.2 22.4 21.8 20.8 17.6 22.5 16.1 15.3 12.4 24.9
$54,000-$73,499 20.2 21.0 20.2 19.4 19.2 23.4 21.7 33.8 17.4 25.0 23.5
$73,500+ 20.2 20.1 18.6 14.0↓ 25.0↑ 31.4↑ 15.5 25.6 9.0 27.3 17.7
Main source of household income         
Wages/salary/business 73.5 71.3↓ 70.7 61.3↓ 75.6 89.1↑ 70.1 93.6↑ 43.8↓ 83.3↑ 88.3↑
Govt. pension/ allowance/ benefit 18.2 19.6↑ 20.7↑ 29.3↑ 17.2 7.2↓ 22.4↑ np 50.6↑ 13.8 11.7
Superannuation/annuity/ investment 8.1 8.8 8.2 9.2 7.3 3.5↓ 7.3 np 5.6# np np

Notes: Percentages based on weighted data. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding or non-response. a Only region of births representing >10% of the population are presented. b Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas 2011. c Household income after tax, weighted for size and composition of household. # RSE between 30% and 50%. np - data not presented due to insufficient responses or RSE >50% ↑ and ↓ are used to indicate values significantly above or below the general Australian population at p<.05.

5 Differences of around twenty percent or greater between the proportion of Australians and proportion of gambling participants represented by a sociodemographic characteristic were considered substantial.