Research directions 2014-17

Research directions 2014-17

Australian Gambling Research Centre

Corporate publication— November 2014
Research directions 2014-17

Preamble

This document outlines the research directions of the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) for the next three years. The AGRC was established under the Commonwealth Gambling Measures Act 2012. It is situated within the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), a statutory research agency of the Australian Government. The AIFS Director governs its operations. These research directions reflect the Act, embody a national perspective, and provide a strong family focus consistent with the AIFS Research Directions.

Gambling is a major public policy issue in Australia, affecting the health and wellbeing of many families in a range of ways. The purpose of the AGRC is to contribute high-quality, impartial research that can inform both knowledge of the recreational role of gambling and responses to the prevention and reduction of gambling-related harm for Australians, their families and communities. As such, the AGRC conducts policy-relevant research, informed by a public health approach. This means our research takes a population-level perspective, recognising that individual behaviour occurs in a context that is strongly influenced by public policy, community attitudes, values and norms. The ways in which gambling is provided and regulated also have important implications for health and wellbeing. In conducting this research we seek to raise awareness and understanding of the potential effects of gambling, including benefits and harms, and contribute to informed debate in the community to facilitate action to prevent and reduce harm from gambling.

These research directions include longer term aspirational goals as well as those that can be achieved within the triennium. They follow extensive consultation with major gambling stakeholders around Australia and internationally. Policy makers from local, state/territory and Commonwealth governments, gambling regulation authorities from different states and territories, representatives from industry, national and international academia, service providers, and community stakeholders were consulted, along with the AGRC Expert Advisory Group (EAG). The AGRC builds upon the family research capacity of the Institute and, as such, is complemented by AIFS' established expertise in research and a range of relevant disciplines.

Research directions of the AGRC

The AGRC research directions are to:

  1. build understanding of the nature and extent of gambling, and gambling-related harm in Australia;
  2. advance knowledge of ways to prevent and reduce harm from gambling;
  3. perform policy-relevant research;
  4. strengthen gambling research capability and capacity in Australia; and
  5. translate and communicate gambling research.

 1. Build understanding of the nature and extent of gambling, and gambling-related harm in Australia

The size of the Australian gambling sector has expanded significantly over the past several decades. In 2010-11, consumers spent upwards of $19 billion on gambling, providing for 10% of aggregate state and territory tax revenue (Government Statistician, Queensland Treasury and Trade, 2014). This is more than double the $8.5 billion spent on gambling twenty years before.

Per capita, Australian adults spent $1,160 on gambling in 2010-11 (Government Statistician, Queensland Treasury and Trade, 2014), more than any other country in the world (The Economist, 2014). Over half of this expenditure was accounted for through electronic gaming machines (EGMs; or "pokies", as they are known colloquially) that are widely available in local communities in most states and territories.1 Although still comparatively modest, recent growth has also occurred via the increasing promotion and accessibility of sports betting and online gambling.

Evidence from previous studies has shown the social costs of gambling to Australians are extensive. The Productivity Commission (2010) estimated these to be at least $4.7 billion per annum. Specifically, gambling problems can lead to:

  • excessive expenditure that diverts essential household income, thus creating housing and food insecurity;
  • unemployment and/or decreased productivity;
  • poor mental and physical health, or suicide;
  • relationship dysfunction and breakdown, neglect of children, loss of trust and social isolation; and
  • contact with the criminal justice system due to violence and/or income-generating crimes.

These substantial issues suggest that research is needed to determine cost-effective ways in which to mitigate them, while preserving as much as possible the enjoyment of non-problematic gambling. There is still limited knowledge about how these effects vary for different categories of gamblers; for instance, the nature of harms experienced by low- and moderate-risk gamblers. There is also limited evidence of the effects of gambling on culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) populations, Indigenous Australians and those harmed by others' gambling.

Strategies to achieve these aims include:

  • improving understanding of the range and magnitude of consequences of problematic gambling on gamblers and significant others across a range of domains, including social welfare and housing, household finances, health and nutrition, education, crime, employment and productivity;
  • contributing to improved monitoring and surveillance systems to capture gambling trends and gambling-related harms;
  • examining how new and emerging gambling trends, products or promotions affect gambling; and
  • analysing existing large and longitudinal databases that contain gambling data to examine gambling effects across the life course, from childhood to retirement, and on vulnerable communities such as Aboriginal and CALD communities.

This research will improve our understanding of factors, at multiple levels, that contribute to different patterns and experiences of gambling and of the influences that contribute to resilience and vulnerability to developing gambling-related problems across the life course for individuals, households and communities.

2. Advance knowledge of ways to prevent and reduce harm from gambling

A more nuanced understanding of the nature and extent of gambling, and gambling-related harm, allows the development and evaluation of strategies to prevent and reduce harm for gamblers and their families. This will include consideration of the features of supply and demand that are thought to influence the consumption of gambling products.

Strategies to achieve these aims include:

  • conducting research grounded in population approaches to prevent and reduce harm from gambling, recognising that individual behaviour is strongly influenced by social norms, and shifting the emphasis of responsibility from individuals with gambling problems (or "problem gamblers") to the collective responsibility of governments, industry, communities and families, as well as individual gamblers;
  • exploring pathways into and out of gambling problems;
  • understanding how environmental risk and protective factors contribute to gambling-related harm and its amelioration;
  • reviewing existing harm reduction or responsible gambling initiatives to determine their effectiveness in preventing and reducing gambling harms, their costs, the degree to which they target problems well and any unintended effects;
  • developing interdisciplinary collaborations and encouraging sharing of lessons from other areas of social policy where strategies are implemented to regulate, change attitudes and minimise harm (e.g., consumption of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs; obesity; road safety; spread of HIV); and
  • evaluating and conducting research to better understand ways to support individuals and families experiencing harm from gambling problems.

While acknowledging the important role of treatment and recovery in supporting gamblers and their families experiencing gambling-related harm, the work of the AGRC will have an emphasis on prevention and early intervention for those at risk and those with established problems, with the overarching aim of reducing harm at the population level.

3. Perform policy-relevant gambling research

The AGRC intends to assist in closing the gap between gambling research and policy and practice, especially in relation to understanding and mitigating harm. AGRC research will inform policy areas relating to harm reduction, prevention and early intervention, and those aimed at strengthening community awareness. Our research will assist in policy refinement, future policy development and reflective implementation. The relevance of gambling policy to allied policy areas will also be emphasised.

Strategies to achieve these aims include:

  • consulting regularly with policy-makers and other stakeholders to identify and prioritise policy research and data needs;
  • identifying gambling policies and practice that would benefit from additional research evidence and contributing to their improvement;
  • communicating gaps between research evidence and policy and practice to policy-makers and the research community; and
  • reviewing and building on research of direct relevance to current gambling policy priorities.

4. Strengthen gambling research capability and capacity in Australia

The gambling community requires access to rigorous and timely gambling data in order to provide valid and reliable knowledge to policy-makers. This includes data of sufficient breadth, disaggregation, duration and consistency, and with enough linkages to socio-economic data to respond to existing and future policy needs. This will improve the quality, transparency and independence of gambling research.

Australia also requires researchers capable of performing high-quality policy-relevant gambling research who can build the research literacy of policy makers and educate and mentor the next generation of gambling researchers.

Strategies to achieve these aims include:

  • ensuring, so far as possible, that national and state-based publicly accessible surveys include core gambling questions, to build links between gambling data, health and socio-economic data, and policy-relevant topics, which will also enable comparison of research conducted across jurisdictions, disciplines and policy areas;
  • increasing awareness of, and facilitating public access to, existing datasets that include gambling data;
  • contributing to discussions relating to best-practice gambling research, including the measurement of gambling behaviour and harms, and building a rigorous evidence base;
  • contributing to the development of an integrated, common set of core gambling questions for use by researchers to enumerate participation, expenditure and harm;
  • developing and encouraging interdisciplinary research collaborations;
  • developing specialist policy-focused gambling researchers within the AGRC; and
  • providing clear and supportive specialist advice, guidance and mentorship to gambling policy makers and researchers.

5. Translate and communicate gambling research

The AGRC will translate and communicate high-quality policy-relevant gambling research to stakeholders, researchers in allied fields and the public through a mix of traditional and novel formats. We further seek to communicate the value and importance of Australian gambling research at a national and international level and to increase interdisciplinary interest in gambling research.

Strategies to achieve these aims include:

  • translating gambling research into clear, publicly accessible resources (including fact sheets, discussion papers, research summaries and webinars);
  • publishing and presenting AGRC research findings in national and international journals and forums;
  • developing and contributing to national and international research collaborations and communities of interest around the key topics relevant to policy, and working cooperatively with other key agencies whose aims are to understand and prevent gambling problems; and
  • engaging with national and international experts and playing an active, informative role in national and international advisory groups.

References

  • Government Statistician, Queensland Treasury and Trade. (2014). Australian gambling statistics 1986-87 to 2011-12 (29th ed.). Brisbane: Queensland Treasury and Trade. Retrieved from <www.qgso.qld.gov.au/products/publications/aus-gambling-stats/aus-gambling-stats-29th-edn.pdf>.
  • Productivity Commission. (2010). Gambling (Productivity Commission Inquiry Report No. 50). Melbourne: Productivity Commission. Retrieved from <www.pc.gov.au/projects/inquiry/gambling-2009/report>.
  • The Economist. (2014, 3 February). Daily chart: The house wins (Graphic Detail) [Blog post]. Retrieved from <www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2014/02/daily-chart-0>.

Footnote

1 The exception is Western Australia where EGMs are available only in the Casino.

Publication details

Corporate publication
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, November 2014.
Last updated October 2014

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