Tale of two suburbs: Gambling in suburban Australia


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Content type
Media release

July 2016

In a research presentation to the Australian Institute of Family Studies' conference, findings from the Gambling in Suburban Australia study detail the impact of gambling on a cluster of western suburbs - around Sunshine - compared to an eastern suburbs area - around Box Hill.

The Centre's director, Anne Hollonds said the research found that gambling losses in the western suburbs were more than three times higher than those in the eastern suburbs.

"In the western suburbs around Sunshine, the annual average loss per adult on poker machines was $1,358, compared to $400 for adults in the eastern suburbs around Box Hill," Ms Hollonds said.

"While the higher losses in the west were not unexpected; this is the first time they had been quantified in this way.

"The two sites have almost the same number of households and are roughly the same distance from the city but the impact of gambling on families is far greater in the western suburbs."

The Centre's Research Fellow, Angela Rintoul said the harm from gambling could be more severe for people in the western suburbs who had fewer resources to draw upon than those in the eastern suburbs.

"Households in the west have a higher level of socioeconomic disadvantage, whereas households in the east were around average," she said.

"This magnifies the harm from gambling. For example, one gambler in the east said losses meant their family had to go without repairing the dishwasher for six months, while several gamblers in the west said gambling losses meant they literally could not afford food for their children."

Dr Rintoul said there were many more gambling venues in the west and twice as many gambling machines per head of population than in the east.

"Around Sunshine there are 407 electronic gambling machines, or 10 machines for every 1,000 adults, compared to the Box Hill area where there are 205 machines, or 4 for every 1,000 adults," she said.

Dr Rintoul said the study also raised concerns about the consistency of venues' compliance with codes of conduct for gamblers.

"There are written codes of conduct that staff use in assisting people showing signs of gambling problems but based on our observations and interviews, these did not always match up with the practices of some venue staff," she said.

"For example, gamblers may be playing two machines at once and betting above $3 per spin and still be provided with a meal at their machine. These are signs of problem gambling that need to be disrupted, rather than facilitated by venue staff.

"Study participants also expressed concern about exposing gambling to young people. For example some venues in the west have children's play equipment on site, whereas gambling venues in the east did not.

"It is important for communities to develop their own spaces for families to visit outside the home without exposing children to gambling.

"This research will help inform all levels of government about who goes to these venues, why they go and how the effects of gambling are being felt in these local communities.

"In turn, this will help inform regulators of the issues they should be considering when reviewing applications for additional gambling facilities at a local level."

The Gambling in Suburban Australia Study research sites are: Site 1: The suburb cluster of Sunshine, Sunshine West, Sunshine North, Ardeer, Albion and Braybrook in Melbourne's west. Site 2: The suburb cluster of Box Hill, North Box Hill, South Box Hill, Blackburn, North Blackburn and South Blackburn in Melbourne's east.

Media contact:
Lauren Brown
0488 534 201