Gambling in Suburban Australia
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Method
- 3. Community context and local environment
- 4. Venue promotions, amenity and ambiance
- 5. Life stressors
- 6. Financial and crisis harms
- 7. Harms to health
- 8. Relationship harms
- 9. Benefits to the local community
- 10. Conclusions
- Appendix A: Methodological detail
- Appendix B: Study materials
- Appendix C: Brief historical overview
Appendix A: Methodological detail
Site profiles were compiled using publicly available suburb-level population information, incorporating information on the socio-economic status and demography of these areas as well as information about the EGM venues in those areas. A brief historical profile of each site was also developed using published secondary source materials (Alves, 2010; Ford, 2001, 2012).
The socio-economic and demographic information is drawn from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016 Census data (ABS, 2017 and 2018). To measure relative socio-economic status, we referred to the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) Index of relative socio-economic disadvantage (IRSD).
Data about EGM venues were collated using regulator data, which included EGM venue numbers and type, machine numbers and gambling losses in each site (VCGLR, 2010-2015b).
Secondary data about the EGM venues also came from published Responsible Gambling Codes of Conduct (CoC). These documents describe EGM operator commitments to reducing harm from gambling. In Victoria, CoC are required under licensing regulations, as described in the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 (Vic.). CoC documents were obtained for each venue, and the analysis of the eight CoC published by the 11 venues has been reported elsewhere (Rintoul et al., 2017).
Site and venue observations
Researchers conducted observations of the characteristics of each local area, and of all EGM venues in the two sites. This allowed us to familiarise ourselves with the built environment and the local context of gambling. This provided an understanding of the diversity and quality of local recreational facilities, as well as gambling opportunities and EGM venue practices. Both local area and venue observations were valuable in refining interview and focus group instruments and enabled the triangulation of our own observations with secondary data and reports from participants.
Each of the venues in both sites were observed by researchers on between two and five occasions (Table A1). A series of prompts about the venue environment (such as: who are at the venue, what activities are they engaging in, what types of promotions are there, is there the presence of children, what are the betting styles of people who gamble, and what is the interaction between staff and patrons inside the venue?) were used by researchers to assist observations. Researchers familiarised themselves with the venue CoC documents to develop an understanding of expected venue practices. The gambling behaviour checklist was used to identify validated signs indicating problematic gambling. Observation of such signs should warrant a supportive interaction from staff (Delfabbro, Thomas, & Armstrong, 2016; Thomas, Delfabbro, & Armstrong, 2014).
Observations within venues were unannounced, and involved the researcher participating as a 'detached insider' (Li, 2008). In this study, this meant that interactions with other patrons were avoided and researchers used EGMs periodically to maintain an unobtrusive presence in the venue. Observations were recorded using a smartphone, and narrative notes were subsequently produced, based upon these voice and image recordings. The two authors regularly discussed their observations to assist in their comprehension of these observations, and to monitor and prevent adverse occupational health and safety outcomes for research team members.
Venue observations were between 20 and 100 minutes in length, with an average length of 50 minutes. These were predominantly conducted on weekdays between 9 am and 8 pm, between January and October 2015 in Site 1, and between February 2015 and February 2016 in Site 2. Venue EGM numbers and losses, as reported by the regulator, provided an overall indication of venue scale and activity (Table A1).
Notes: Observations were undertaken by the first two authors with both visiting each venue at least once. Eight venues were located in Site 1 and a further three venues were located in Site 2. a Rounded to nearest dollar. b Annual loss and EGM machine numbers for each venue to financial year 2016 (VCGLR, 2016).
Interviews with people who gamble and significant others
This component of the study involved semi-structured, in-depth interviews with people living within each of Site 1 and Site 2 who were identified either as a person who gambles or as a 'significant other', meaning someone who had experienced harms from a close family member's gambling (e.g. partner, child, or close family member of a person who gambles and has experienced harms/problems).
Given each site comprises a relatively small area, and the topic of gambling can be sensitive for individuals affected by gambling harms, recruitment was challenging. Multiple recruitment strategies were employed to achieve a sufficient sample. The main recruitment method for the qualitative interviews with people who gamble and significant others was a survey of local residents (see chapter 2). The key inclusion criteria for participating was that the participant lived in one of the local sites, they had indicated in the survey that they had experienced harms from their own gambling or that a close family member had experienced gambling harms, and they had expressed willingness to participate in a follow-up interview. A small number of survey respondents (n = 4 in Site 1, n = 6 in Site 2) who lived in neighbouring suburbs bordering one of the sites were interviewed in the study. The intention was to recruit a mix of male, female, young and old, and oversample those classified as high- and moderate-risk gamblers according to the PGSI scale, as far as it was possible within the sample generated by the survey. In addition, a small number of people who gamble were recruited through direct referral from a help service or other local contacts.
Interviews with people who gamble sought to understand what features of the local area they believed influenced their gambling activity and how gambling affected their lives. The interviews covered a range of topics including: their experiences of gambling, details about venue visitation, betting style, interactions with staff, impacts of gambling and any support services they may have received.
Interviews with significant others were directed toward understanding how gambling affected their relationship and household functioning, and to understand the broad impacts of gambling harm on the family. Significant others were asked about the gambling of the person in their life and about the impact of this on themselves and their family.
Semi-structured, in-depth interviews (Galletta, 2013) were conducted with people who gamble and significant others in English. Question guides for these interviews are provided at Appendix B. Most interviews were conducted in person (n = 54), with a smaller number of participants interviewed by phone (n = 10; six in Site 1 and four in Site 2). Interview participants were offered a $50 supermarket voucher in recognition of their time.
Twenty-four people who gamble (16 female, eight male) and 12 significant others (all female) were interviewed in Site 1. It also emerged during interview that three significant others in Site 1 were professionals working in allied fields who encountered people who gamble professionally. The average length of interviews with people who gamble was 59 minutes with a range of 30-159 minutes. With significant others, the interview length averaged 60 minutes with a range of 38-93 minutes. These interviews were conducted from May 2015 to February 2016.
In Site 2, a total of 20 people who gamble (16 male and four female) and eight significant others (seven female and one male) were interviewed. Four of the people who gamble in Site 2 were also significant others. The average length of interviews with people who gamble was 54 minutes with a range of 36-110 minutes. With significant others, the interview length averaged 56 minutes with a range of 36-93 minutes. These interviews were conducted from October 2015 to January 2016.
Significant others (12 in Site 1 and eight in Site 2) comprised: partners of people who gamble (four in each site), adult children of parents who gamble (four in Site 1, three in Site 2), siblings (two in Site 1) and other relationships (two in Site 1 and one in Site 2).
Notes: Data presented was obtained from completion of the online survey. For two participants who gamble in Site 2, EGMs were a significant tertiary form of gambling: this data is not included in the table. a Language spoken at home only if, when asked birth country, answered not born in Australia. Main language at home other than English: Arabic, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Italian, Nepali, Maltese and Vietnamese. The language spoken at home was only asked if their birth country was not Australia. b Countries of birth other than Australia: Egypt, Fiji, Germany, India, Italy, Nepal, Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and Vietnam.
Notes: Percentages are based on available data. Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding. Data presented was obtained from completion of the online survey supplemented by interview data.
It was anticipated that around 20 interviews with people who gamble and 12 interviews with significant others in each site would result in saturation for the study to distinguish differences between the two sites. Previous qualitative studies have found 12 interviews are usually sufficient to reach saturation (Guest, Bunce, & Johnson, 2006). Unfortunately, challenges with recruitment meant there was an imbalance of genders between the two sites, with only four female people who gamble in Site 2. It is possible that the difficulty in recruiting more female people who gamble in Site 2 was actually a function of the comparatively low gambling activity among this demographic in this area. We did achieve data saturation in Site 2 and other gender categories of interest, with no novel data emerging from interviews prior to the completion of interviews (Fusch & Ness, 2015).
General resident population focus groups
This component of the study involved focus groups with members of the general resident population of Sites 1 and 2. The focus groups explored community attitudes to gambling and perceptions of the amenity of the local area.
Recruitment for focus group discussions was primarily from participants who did not indicate their own experience of gambling harms (either their own or a close family member's).
Focus group participants were asked about the amenity in their local area, their knowledge of gambling and their perceptions of the benefits and harms of gambling in the community (question guides are provided in Appendix B). All focus groups were held locally in each site. All focus group participants were offered a $50 supermarket voucher in recognition of their time.
In Site 1, three English-language local resident focus groups were conducted in July 2015. A total of 15 participants (seven female, eight male) attended, including one focus group with three participants that focused specifically around gambling issues affecting people with a disability in the Site 1 local area. These three focus groups ranged from 59 to 68 minutes in length.
A very high proportion of residents in Site 1 spoke a language other than English at home, with the Vietnamese language the most common non-English language spoken.To ensure the study captured the perspectives of these local residents, four Vietnamese-language focus groups were also conducted in Site 1. The study team engaged a locally based Vietnamese consultant, Dr Thai Ohtsuka, to assist in developing Vietnamese-language recruitment materials and to facilitate these groups. These focus groups were conducted in April 2015 with a total of 38 participants (25 women, 13 men) attending, and ranged between 79 and 95 minutes in length.
In Site 2, two English-language local resident focus groups were held in February 2016, attended by a total of 12 participants. Resources were insufficient to conduct focus groups with non-English speaking participants in Site 2.
Notes: a Multiple forms of gambling could be reported. b Language spoken at home only asked if reported not born in Australia.
Note: a Multiple forms of gambling could be reported.Interviews and focus groups with professionals
Interviews and focus groups with professionals
Professionals in each site were purposively contacted and invited to participate in the study to gather information about the role of gambling in the local area, and factors that contribute to the development of gambling harms in each of the two local sites. Interviews and focus groups were arranged by a direct approach to relevant organisations. This included Gambler's Help services, local government, welfare organisations, gambling operators and the gambling regulator (VCGLR).
Further, all 11 venues operating within the two study sites (five clubs and six hotels) were contacted to participate in this study. This approach was made through letters, email, telephone calls and/or directly in person at the venue. The invitation requested venue support for the study by inviting staff to participate in interviews and by displaying research materials such as posters and flyers in their venues to assist in recruiting local community members and people who gamble. This approach had very limited success with only two venues agreeing to display materials and one venue agreeing to an interview. Most venues did not respond to repeated requests to participate and two operators responsible for four venues across the sites specifically declined to participate.
Gambling professionals, including venue, treatment and policy and regulation professionals, were recruited to provide insight into what they believe helped or hindered the reduction of gambling harms in the two study areas. Two professionals worked in both sites. Interviews also explored management practices in venues and gambling-related harm they encounter in their work including the effects of this on their clients. Professionals were also asked what they thought encouraged or discouraged gambling in venues, and what had helped or hindered the reduction of gambling harm in the local area. Question guides for focus groups and interviews with professionals are provided in Appendix B.
Community sector professionals, including from local government, non-government, and faith-based organisations, were also interviewed. These interviews assisted understanding of the ways in which gambling was perceived to influence the local community, as well as ways in which organisations support local residents to respond to gambling harms.
Semi-structured in-depth interviews with professionals enabled documentation of knowledge and experience as well as their reflections on gambling and gambling-related harms. Focus groups were also used to capture discussion and debate from a larger number of participants in a relatively short period of time. All professional participants were asked to complete a short demographic form at the outset of the interview or focus group.
In Site 1, a total of 19 professionals (11 gambling and eight community professionals) participated in the study. Two focus groups were conducted; six gambling professionals attended one group (67 minutes) and eight professionals from the community sector who regularly encounter the effects of gambling in their practice attended another (48 minutes). Eight individual professional interviews were also conducted in Site 1 with venue (two), treatment (three), policy and regulation (one) and community sector (two) professionals (average length 59 minutes, range 47-68 minutes).
A total of 11 professionals (10 gambling and one community professional) participated in interviews and/or a focus group in Site 2. Eight professionals attended a focus group discussion (99 minutes, three venue and five treatment professionals), one venue professional by chance attended a local resident focus group, and four individual interviews were conducted with venue (one), treatment (one), policy and regulation (one) and community sector (one) professionals (average length 67 minutes, range 35-94 mins).
Professional focus groups and interviews were conducted from April to September 2015 in Site 1 and from November 2015 to January 2016 in Site 2. Further details are reported in Table A6.
Note: a Data were available from only two professionals in this category.
16 Data collection was undertaken in Site 1 initially and fieldwork experiences were used reflexively to refine the data collection in Site 2. Fieldwork in Site 1 was longer (37 weeks) and more costly than anticipated due to the efforts required to boost recruitment. It became clear from the analysis of interview transcripts in Site 1 that saturation had been reached with a smaller number of interviews and focus groups. Therefore, in Site 2, data collection was scaled back slightly with a shorter data collection period (23 weeks) and a smaller number of interviews conducted.
17 Fifty-six per cent of the population in Site 1 speak a language other than English at home. Over 20% of the population in the Sunshine area speak Vietnamese at home, making Vietnamese the largest non-English speaking group in this area. A decision was made to focus on the Vietnamese community in Site 1 as this was the largest non-English speaking population in the area, albeit a well-established migrant group in this area. While there are many non-English speaking groups in this area, it was not possible to engage specifically with all these groups with the resources available for this study.
18 A Vietnamese-speaking researcher with established contacts in Site 1 was employed to assist with recruitment for the Vietnamese-speaking population, and to facilitate Vietnamese-language discussions. Study flyers were also translated into Vietnamese and distributed throughout the Site 1 business area. Focus group questions and consent forms were also translated into Vietnamese and question guides were the same as the English-language local resident focus groups, although some additional questions were added directed at gathering data around Vietnamese gambling and cultural practices within the Vietnamese community (the question guide is provided in Appendix B).
19 One professional attended a focus group and an interview in Site 1.
20 Two professionals attended a focus group and an interview in Site 2.