Gambling activity in Australia

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

5. Gambling problems and expenditure

Introduction

This chapter extends the previous ones, by examining the information on typical past-year expenditure by regular gamblers, in conjunction with the gambling problems risk groups described in the previous chapter (as assessed by the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI; Ferris & Wynne, 2001). Estimates include national expenditure and mean expenditure by risk-level, both overall and on each activity.

As noted in Chapter 3, the estimates of expenditure were calculated by multiplying regular gamblers' self-reported typical monthly spend by 12. The estimates therefore do not represent total gambling expenditure for the year, which would include amounts from higher and lower spend months, and expenditure on activities where participation was less than monthly.7

Key findings

  • Gamblers who had problems (i.e., the combined low-risk, moderate-risk and problem gamblers), representing 17% of regular gamblers, accounted for nearly half of all expenditure by regular gamblers in 2015 ($3.63b or 42%), and more than half of all expenditure by regular gamblers on EGMs, race betting, sports betting, casino table games and private betting (59-69%).
  • The low risk, moderate risk and problem gambler groups each spent around one third of their typical gambling expenditure on EGMs (32-36%) and one fifth on race betting (19%-22%).
  • Expenditure per gambler was higher among those in higher risk groups. Non-problem gamblers averaged $883 over the year whereas problem gamblers averaged $6,241.
  • The strength of relationship between expenditure and gambler risk status varied markedly across products. Lottery, keno and instant scratch ticket expenditure had the weakest connection. Race betting, EGMs and particularly sports betting expenditure had a much stronger connection with risk.
  • The biggest typical gambling outlays were made by problem gamblers who participated in race betting ($8,141 on average) and sports betting ($9,716 on average), noting that they spent at least half of these amounts on other activities.

National gambling expenditure by risk group

Table 5.1  shows HILDA survey-based estimates of national expenditure on each activity by regular participants belonging to each risk group. Figure 5.1 displays these estimates as proportions of national activity expenditure by risk group.

Non-problem gamblers, representing 83% of adults who gambled in a typical month, accounted for a little over half ($4.96b or 58%) of typical gambling expenditure by regular gamblers in 2015. Those who experienced gambling-related problems, representing 17% of typical monthly gamblers, accounted for a little under half ($3.63b or 42%).

In terms of specific activities, non-problem gamblers accounted for most of the money spent on lotteries ($2.87b or 80%) which was their highest-spend activity. They also accounted for the majority of money spent on instant scratch tickets and bingo.

Those with gambling problems accounted for the majority of money spent on EGMs, which was their highest spend activity ($1.23b or 67%), as well as casino table games, sports betting, race betting and private betting.

Non-problem gamblers and those with problems each accounted for around half of keno and poker expenditure.

Table 5.1: National past-year expenditure by regular activity participants belonging to each risk group
  Non-problem gamblers Low risk gamblers Moderate risk gamblers Problem gamblers
Activity $M 95% CI $M 95% CI $M 95% CI $M 95% CI
Lottery 2,874 (2,700-3,048) 362 (284-439) 262 (175-348) 76 (38-115)
Instant scratch tickets 277 (237-317) 44# (15-73) 30 (17-43) 15 (2-29)
EGMs 594 (503-684) 420 (276-564) 525 (396-653) 282# (160-404)
Race betting 502 (426-579) 241 (173-309) 335 (246-424) 187 (86-288)
Sports betting 229 (153-306) 86 (50-123) 131# (50-212) 132# (23-242)
Keno 125 (90-159) 39 (25-53) 47 (22-72) 15 (4-26)
Casino table games 79 (41-117) 61 (1-121) 42# (11-73) 75# (14-135)
Bingo 107 (65-150) 34 (16-52) 9 (3-14) 6 (0-13)
Private betting 53 (28-79) 9# (2-15) 41# (8-74) 27# (1-54)
Poker np - np - 58# (9-108) 36# (10-63)
Any gambling 4,963 (4,668-5,257) 1,302 (1,002-1,603) 1,478 (1,217-1,740) 853 (550-1,156)

Notes: Values based on weighted data and capped expenditure. Expenditure calculations exclude those who reported they had participated in an activity in a typical month, but who did not report a dollar amount when prompted for the expenditure. Expenditure may not add to totals due to missing PGSI values for some participants. # RSE between 30% and 50%. np - data not presented due to insufficient responses or RSE >50%.

Figure 5.1: Proportion of national past-year activity expenditure accounted for by each risk group

Figure 5.1: Proportion of national past-year activity expenditure accounted for by each risk group

Figure 5.2 shows the proportion of each risk group's total regular expenditure spent on each activity.

The overall pattern was one where higher risk groups spent more of their total regular gambling outlay on EGMs, race betting, sports betting, and casino table games and less on lotteries and instant scratch tickets.

As a group, non-problem gamblers spent more than half of their total typical gambling outlay on lotteries (58%), with the remainder spread widely across other activities. In contrast, the low risk, moderate risk, and problem gamblers each spent around a third of their total gambling outlay on EGMs (32-35%) and a fifth on race betting (19-23%). Low risk and moderate risk gamblers also spent substantial portions on lotteries (28% and 18%) while problem gamblers spent more on sports betting (15%) than lotteries (9%).

Figure 5.2: Proportion of risk group expenditure on each activity

Figure 5.2: Proportion of risk group expenditure on each activity

Mean gambling expenditure by risk group

Turning now to the perspective of individuals' spending, within each risk group, Table 5.2 and Figure 5.3 show estimates of mean past-year expenditure on the 10 gambling activities. Note that mean expenditure estimates for casino table games, bingo, private betting and poker were unreliable across most risk groups. This was because of small participant numbers within each risk group and the large variations in the expenditure they reported. While their means are provided, those marked as unreliable were not interpreted.

The table shows that average gambling expenditure was higher for adults in higher risk groups. Illustrating this, expenditure was lowest among non-problem gamblers whose typical monthly gambling amounted to an average of $883 per participant over 2015. Expenditure peaked among problem gamblers who spent seven times as much on average ($6,241).

With respect to the valid activity estimates for non-problem gamblers, yearly expenditure was low for keno ($353, on average) and instant scratch tickets ($229 on average), and for other activities averages were in the range of $645 for lottery up to $887 for race betting. Low-risk, moderate-risk and problem gamblers each spent substantially more on average on EGMs and race betting than on other products. Problem gamblers spent the highest amounts, on EGMs, race betting and sports betting ($3,343-3,910).

While all activities saw a higher spend among problem gamblers, what was also apparent was that the strength of relationship between expenditure and gambler risk status varied widely across products. Lottery, keno and instant scratch ticket expenditure showed the weakest rise across risk groups, with problem gambling participants spending twice as much on average as those without problems. EGM expenditure showed a much steeper rise, with problem gamblers spending five times as much as non-problem gamblers. Race and particularly sports betting expenditure showed an exponential rise across risk groups, with expenditure doubling between non-problem gamblers and moderate risk participants, and doubling or tripling again for problem gambling participants.

Table 5.2: Mean past-year expenditure by regular activity participants belonging to each risk group
  Non-problem gamblers Low risk gamblers Moderate risk gamblers Problem gamblers
Activity $ 95% CI $ 95% CI $ 95% CI $ 95% CI
Lottery 645 (612-677) 990↑ (829-1,151) 1,072↑ (828-1,315) 1,136↑ (657-1,616)
Instant scratch tickets 229 (200-258) 376 (191-561) 256 (171-342) 465# (110-820)
EGMs 720 (628-811) 1,623↑ (1,195-2,052) 2,177↑ (1,820-2,534) 3,343↑ (2,275-4,411)
Race betting 887 (751-1,022) 1,285↑ (1,020-1,550) 2,042↑ (1,640-2,445) 3,815↑ (2,556-5,074)
Sports betting 693 (469-916) 877 (555-1,199) 1,343 (748-1,938) 3,910↑ (1,821-5,998)
Keno 353 (286-420) 570↑ (422-719) 532 (300-763) 723 (298-1,147)
Casino table games 775 (556-994) 2,200# (102-4,299) 1,425# (550-2,299) 2,651# (343-4,959)
Bingo 872 (657-1,087) 926 (544-1,309) 579# (195-964) 995# (5-1,984)
Private betting 686 (463-909) 351# (53-650) 1,908# (619-3,197) 1,529↑ (822-2,236)
Poker np - 1,045# (9-2,082) 2,530# (729-4,331) 1,296 (878-1,714)
Any gambling 883 (840-925) 2,205↑ (1,858-2,552) 3,685↑ (3,182-4,189) 6,241↑ (4,994-7,488)

Notes: Values are based on weighted data and capped expenditure. Expenditure calculations exclude those who reported they had participated in an activity in a typical month, but who did not report a dollar amount when prompted for the expenditure. Expenditure may not add to totals due to missing PGSI values for some participants # 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 non-problem gambler expenditure at p<.05.

Figure 5.3: Mean past-year expenditure by regular activity participants belonging to each risk group

Figure 5.3: Mean past-year expenditure by regular activity participants belonging to each risk group

Table 5.3 shows participants' mean expenditure on each activity as a proportion of their total gambling outlay.

Non-problem gamblers who participated in any given activity spent the majority or close to the majority of their total personal gambling outlay on that activity. For instance, non-problem gamblers who participated in lotteries spent 84% on average of their total gambling outlay on that activity (e.g., the average spend of $645 would come from an estimated total outlay of $764).

Low-risk participants spent the majority of their money on single activities as well, except for those who participated in instant scratch tickets, keno, and potentially private betting, where the proportions outlaid were around 30%.

Among moderate-risk and problem gamblers, only race betting and EGMs attracted the majority of participants' total outlays (47% to 61%). Casino gaming, sports betting, and poker attracted 30% to 40% on average. Private betting, keno and instant scratch tickets attracted much less.

These findings are of course related to the findings presented earlier (see Table 4.2) in which we reported that non-problem gamblers often have only one regular gambling activity, while the moderate risk and problem gamblers often reported having multiple activities they participated in.

Table 5.3: Mean past-year activity expenditure as a proportion of regular participants' total gambling outlay
  Non-problem gamblers Low risk gamblers Moderate risk gamblers Problem gamblers
Activity % % % %
Lottery 84.4 54.3 37.1 25.2
Instant scratch tickets 44.3 29.0 13.4 16.1#
EGMs 59.8 61.4 59.7 61.4
Race betting 54.8 50.5 47.3 46.9
Sports betting 48.5 46.2 32.2 40.2
Keno 38.5 28.2 16.2 11.9
Casino table games 62.7 53.7 35.9 37.3
Bingo 63.6 42.1 35.3 np
Private betting 56.6 27.0# 23.2# 23.0#
Poker 59.8 48.8# 31.0 29.2

Notes: Values based on weighted data and capped expenditure. Expenditure calculations exclude those who reported they had participated in an activity in a typical month, but who did not report a dollar amount when prompted for the expenditure. Expenditure may not add to totals due to missing PGSI values for some participants # RSE between 30% and 50%. np - data not presented due to insufficient responses or RSE >50%.

Figure 5.4 shows mean past-year expenditure by activity participants, by risk group, on each activity and on gambling overall.

The figure shows that while higher risk gamblers generally spent more than lower risk gamblers on all the activities they participated in, those who participated in certain activities were likely to spend much more, on the activity and overall, than higher risk gamblers who participated in other activities.

For instance, higher risk gamblers who regularly participated in instant scratch tickets spent the least, on this activity and overall. Those who regularly participated in sports betting, spent the most, on this activity and overall.

The biggest mean gambling outlays were made by problem gamblers who participated in race betting ($8,141), and sports betting ($9,716), noting that they spent at least half of their outlays on other activities.

Together these findings illustrate the importance of considering gamblers' overall gambling outlay, not just their expenditure on a single product, when considering links between expenditure and problem gambling risk status. Higher risk gamblers are likely to spend more on gambling overall - particularly those attracted to EGMs, race and sports betting - and to spread their outlay over a range of activities rather than a single activity. Lower risk gamblers spend less overall and on fewer products.

Figure 5.4: Mean past-year activity expenditure and estimated total gambling expenditure by regular participants belonging to each risk group

Figure 5.4: Mean past-year activity expenditure and estimated total gambling expenditure by regular participants belonging to each risk group

7 To reduce the impact of outliers on estimates of overall spend, expenditure estimates were run using a Winsorised technique where values were capped at the top and bottom 1%.